Sanchez v. R. G. L. ex rel. Hernandez, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 14849 (5th Cir. 2014)

INCADAT legal file Hague parental abduction

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Three children were born and raised in Mexico, and are Mexican citizens. They lived with their mother and her boyfriend. On 9 June 2012, the children’s aunt and uncle brought the children, without their mother’s knowledge or consent, to Texas.
After the mother’s several requests for her children’s return, on 18 July 2012, the children’s aunt brought them to the Texas-Mexico border, and instructed the children to cross into Mexico where their mother and her boyfriend were waiting. As the children were walking to cross into Mexico, they presented themselves to U.S. government officials (from the Department of Homeland Security), and stated they did not want to return to Mexico because they feared their mother’s boyfriend.
As the children were being interviewed in a passport control office in Texas, the children’s mother and her boyfriend were escorted to the office by government officials, and interviewed themselves. The children told the government officials that their mother’s boyfriend was involved in a gang, drug trafficking and had abused them. Their mother told the officials that the children had been brought to the U.S. against her will. The Department of Homeland Security kept the children and their mother returned to Mexico alone.
The Children were determined to be unaccompanied alien children with a credible fear of returning to Mexico. They were transferred to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement and placed into foster care through Baptist Services Child and Family Services. The children had pro bono counsel appointed for them who applied for relief on their behalf, opposing the children’s removal back to Mexico on several grounds, including asylum.
Almost one year after the children had been removed from Mexico, their mother petitioned the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas for their return under the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention. She brought the petition against the children’s aunt and uncle and against Baptist Services.
Neither the aunt nor the uncle participated in the Hague proceedings. Baptist Services participated through counsel, but took no position. The children’s pro bono legal counsel for their immigration case sought to intervene, and although their intervention was denied, they were permitted to participate informally in the proceedings.
There were simultaneous asylum proceedings pending at the time of the Hague hearing. The court, wanting to ensure expediency, ordered the children returned to Mexico, but stayed the enforcement of the return pending an appeal. Shortly after the first appeal was filed, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services granted the children asylum.
On 21 February 2014, the first appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the case for further proceedings at the trial level to consider the impact of a grant of asylum on a defence under Article 13(1)(b) to returning the children: Sanchez v. R.G.L., 743 F.3d 945 (5th Cir. 2014).
The children petitioned for a rehearing. On 5 June 2014, the Court of Appeals held that a jurisdictional question regarding the necessity of the United States Government being made a party did not need to be resolved because it was ordering the Government’s joinder on remand: Sanchez v. R.G.L., 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 10510 (5th Cir. 2014).
The children, through their counsel, asked the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for an en banc panel review of this decision on several bases.