Authors and child advocates Peter Thomas Senese and Carolyn Vlk recently published report on international parental child abduction originating from the United States points to major loopholes in the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative as a primary reason how American children are illegally removed from the country.
A landmark study conducted by child abduction prevention advocates Carolyn Ann Vlk and Peter Thomas Senese reveals astonishing loopholes in Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) travel documentation requirements for children 16 years old or younger that inadvertently have created substantial opportunities for international parental child abductors and human traffickers who target thousands of U.S. children each year for cross-border abduction.
The report is titled “International Child Abduction and Human Trafficking In The Western Hemisphere,” and is contained in the child abduction prevention advocates’ recently published resource guide on child abduction titled “The World Turned Upside Down”, which has been made available as a free E-book by the authors.
The extensive study focuses in part on the limited ground and sea travel documentation requirements needed for children traveling to contiguous nations as defined by the WHTI, including to the two nations that represent the highest concentration of abduction cases to and from the United States: Mexico and Canada, while also focusing on illegal travel to the Caribbean via cruise ship.
Under existing United States WHTI policy, a child under 16 years of age traveling by land or by sea to Canada, Mexico, or any number of Caribbean island-nations is required to present as little as a photocopy of their nationalization papers such as a photocopy of a birth certificate. No valid passport is required unless a child is traveling by air. With fraudulent travel documentation being a major issue for the Department of Homeland Security, it is clear that all travel of minors must include use of a valid passport regardless of how travel is conducted.
According to the 2010 Report on Compliance with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspect of International Child Abduction prepared by the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues, there were 1,621 ‘reported’ international parental child abductions originating from the U.S. during 2009. The average growth rate over the past several years is approximately 20% per year.
Additionally, the number of ‘unreported’ cases of international child abduction to contiguous nations is believed to be substantial and is discussed in “Crisis in America: International Parental Child Abduction Today” that is included in Peter Senese and Carolyn Vlk’s “The World Turned Upside Down.” Supporting the concern of the existence of significant ‘unreported’ cases is the most recent National Incidence Study of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Thrownaway Children (NISMART-2) study, which reports that of the 203,900 children that are estimated to be parentally abducted annually in the U.S., only 28% (56,500) of these abductions were reported to law enforcement.
The “International Child Abduction and Human Trafficking In The Western Hemisphere” report has two main objectives: the first goal is to raise awareness of the loopholes traffickers and child abductors may utilize to facilitate their criminal acts of child-stealing so that targeted parents of child abduction, the judiciary and its court officers, law enforcement officials, and policymakers may act to protect children from this hideous type of crime. The second objective is to offer potential solutions through preventative measures and legislative changes that may assist in preventing child abduction and human trafficking as it is uniquely related to current WHTI policy.
In addition, the child abduction prevention advocates have recently created a White House petition site urging others to share their voice in seeking to modify the existing WHTI policy so that all U.S. citizens, regardless of age, must travel with a vaild passport.
Peter Thomas Senese, the author of the upcoming novel ‘Chasing The Cyclone’ critics have called a ‘Call-To-Arms’ against child-stealing that was inspired by his experience as a father who faced international parental child abduction stated, “The information furnished in our report provides substantial insight on how each year thousands of targeted children of international abduction living in the Western Hemisphere, including a considerable number of defenseless U.S. children-citizens, may be criminally transported across international borders. The loopholes in current government policy that may allow abductors to steal children across international borders are severe. In releasing this comprehensive study and by offering measurable solutions, it is Carolyn Vlk’s and my aspiration to raise awareness so that existing policy may be changed in the name of our children’s best interest.”
Carolyn Ann Vlk commented, “International child abduction and human trafficking are urgently critical issues that necessitate an immediate response. As children do not have the ability to protect themselves, we must continue to identify risk factors and loopholes that lead them to becoming victimized. The current situation is intolerable and the sheer numbers of children that are disappearing is unacceptable. These are horrendous crimes which mandate our highest priority and that necessitate legislative changes to take place immediately at the federal level. A mandate requiring a passport for all international travel will create the type of change necessary to further protect the innocent ones from this unconscionable crime.”
Mr. Senese added, “In the near future, we will be releasing a comprehensive study on the financial cost and financial loss associated with international parental child abduction originating from the United States. Our preliminary findings are shocking, and surely will open up many lawmakers eyes on the exteme financial impact international parental child abduction has on our nation and its economy. All this aside – what we’re interested in getting our hands around is rather straight-forward: we want to fully understand how our children are being abducted and what can we do about it. Obviously prevention is key. And that means we must, under all circumstances, modify the WHTI because we’re not talking about 1 or 10 or 100 defenseless American child-citizens lives here, we’re talking about thousands of children. And this is unacceptable.”
Costs for targeted American citizen parents associated with an international parental child abduction include but are not limited to extensive legal costs in the United States and abroad (to the country that the child was illegally taken to and/or detained in, costs associated with finding a child if the child’s location is unknown or costs associated with hiring private security to monitor the child’s whereabouts while legal proceedings take place, and travel related costs associated with a targeted parent’s litigation and hopeful reunification abroad. In addition, the financial burden for the courts and law enforcement are also extensive.
Best-selling author Peter Thomas Senese stated, “When we consider the growing rate of abduction for reported international child abduction cases and the anticipated growing rate of abduction for unreported international child abduction cases in the Untied States, and then factor in the overall costs associated with an abduction, including factoring in a series of additional factors as will be reported in the upcoming study, the overall financial impact on American citizens over a ten year period will far exceed One Billion dollars.”
To read more about the “International Child Abduction and Human Trafficking In The Western Hemisphere,” please download a free copy of “The World Turned Upside Down.”