Judge: Return abducted girl to Mexico

By bfinley@denverpost.com
Bruce Finley, Denver Post International Affairs Writer

Wednesday, August 13, 2003 – A federal judge in Denver has decided to
send home a girl whose father kidnapped her in Mexico and drove to
Colorado – backing up an international treaty on cross-border abductions
even though the girl is a U.S. citizen. Now the U.S. government is asking
Mexico to honor the treaty, the Hague Convention on International Child
Abductions, in dozens of cases where U.S. children have been abducted and
taken to Mexico.

“The fact that we have a judge here who would do that certainly gives us
one more weapon we can use in explaining to the Mexicans what their
obligation is to do the same,” said Stuart Patt, spokesman for the State
Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. “We would expect our neighbor to
do the same and return kids who properly should be returned.”

The ruling Monday by District Judge Robert Blackburn returned 4-year-old
Jennifer Garcia-Garibay to her mother, Erika Garibay, 28, who had
searched for her for six months after her father took her from Mexico.
They are expected to return to Mexico today.

The girl was born in Leadville, where her parents lived while they
commuted to mountain resort towns to clean rooms. Only her father had a
residency permit. After her parents separated, Jennifer lived with her
mother in the northern Mexico town of Parras.

In May, a judge in Mexico gave temporary custody to her mother.
The father, Jose Garcia, took Jennifer during a visit to Parras in
January, court records show, and brought her to the Vail area, where he
worked cleaning rooms at a lodge. On July 23, Blackburn ordered federal
agents to take Jennifer into custody. U.S. marshals, backed by Vail
police, seized the girl a week later.

At a trial held under terms of the treaty, Garcia, 27, argued that
Jennifer would have a better life in the United States.

But Blackburn ruled that Garibay has custodial rights under the treaty
and that “Garcia’s actions in using subterfuge to abduct Jennifer” and
concealing his daughter’s location confirmed that he knew the mother had
custody.

U.S. officials for years have urged Mexico to comply more fully with the
treaty, using diplomatic channels and offering training to Mexican
judges. More than 50 countries have signed the treaty.

In a recent report on treaty compliance, U.S. officials included Mexico
as one of a handful of nations failing to cooperate.

Mexican government officials at the consulate in Denver could not be
reached for comment.

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