Families Across Borders | law, policy, news and views

ECHR Ruling in US-French Surrogacy Cases

In two  judgments on June 26, 2014, a chamber of the European Court of Human Rights held that French laws, denying legal recognition to parent-child relationships legally established in the United States between French parents and children born through surrogacy, violated the children’s right under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights to respect for their private life. Noting that member countries have a wide “margin of appreciation” in determining laws related to surrogacy, the chamber rejected the parents’ claims, but concluded that the situation was non consistent with the fundamental importance of protecting children’s best interests. The judgments are only available in French, but the court’s reasoning is described in a press release available here. The cases are Mennesson v. France (app. no. 65192/11) and Labassee v. France (app. no. 65941/11).


Protecting Unaccompanied Child Migrants in the US

News stories about the  recent surge in unaccompanied minor children entering the United States from Central America have begun to address the applicable legal framework: the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, which provides for these children to be transferred to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the US Department of Health and Human Services. (See Carl Hulse, Immigrant Surge Rooted in Law to Curb Child Trafficking, NY Times July 7, 2014). Some children may ultimately be required to return to their home countries, but others will qualify for various forms of immigration relief, including Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, a T or U visa (for victims of trafficking or other serious crimes) or asylum.

ORR works with many state and private agencies to attempt to reunite children with their family members or provide foster care placement and services as the process unfolds. Responses to the current emergency situation have not adequately addressed the social services needs of these children however.  For more on this, see this Family Routes blog post from International Social Service USA Branch (ISS-USA). Other agencies working closely with these children include the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (see their Backgrounder leaflet) and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (see also here, here, and here).

Advocacy organizations that have been addressing these issues include the Refugee Council USAUS Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI); and the Center for American Progress.


UNHCR on the Humanitarian Crisis for Children in Central America

In this MSNBC video interview, Leslie Velez, Senior Protection Officer for the UN High Commissioner on Refugees, discusses the humanitarian crisis behind the large numbers of children heading to the United States from Central America.

UNHCR issued a report in March 2014 – Children on the Run - analyzing the effects of violence, insecurity and abuse in communities and at home based on interviews with more than 400 unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico  held in federal custody.

Ms Velez also submitted Congressional testimony based on the UNHCR work for a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the current crisis held on June 25, 2014.

News watch: Unaccompanied Children Entering US in Record Numbers

Many media outlets are reporting on the unprecedented wave of children arriving in the United States in recent months, reported to be more than 52,000 unaccompanied children and 39,000 adults with children since October 2013. on track to reach a total of 60,000 for the current year.  New York Times coverage by Julia Preston includes these articles:

Snakes and Thorny Brush, and Children at the Border Alone,  (NYT June, 25, 2014)
Aid Group Alleges Abuses of Young Border Crossers, (NYT June 21, 2014)
U.S. Moves to Stop Surge in Illegal Immigration (NYT June 20, 2014) ( with Randal C. Archibold)
Migrants Flow in South Texas, As Do Rumors (NYT June 16, 2014)
New U.S. Effort to Aid Unaccompanied Child Migrants (June 2, 2014)
U.S. Setting Up Emergency Shelter in Texas as Youths Cross Border Alone (NYT May 17, 2014).

The Washington Post has followed the response of the federal government to the current crisis:

David Nakamura, Obama Administration announces new steps to stem flow of immigrants at Texas border (Wash Post June 20, 2014)
David Nakamura, Influx of minors across Texas border driven by belief that they will be allowed to stay in the U.S. (Wash. Post June 13, 2014)
Pamela Constable, Immigrant Parents Urge U.S. Officials to Help Their Children Flee Central American Violence (Wash. Post June 12, 2014)

There are also many children in migrant camps on the Mexican side.  See Joshua Partlow and Nick Miroff, Young migrants stuck in limbo on Mexican border (Wash. Post June 20, 2014).

Useful blogs and opinion pieces include these two items:
Greg Sargent (Washington Post): Hillary: Minors crossing border must be sent home (June 18)
Harold Myerson (Washington Post): A new generation of poor huddled masses heads north (June 18).

Updates on Hague Children’s Conventions

1980 Child Abduction Convention. The number of Contracting States for the  Abduction Convention has increased to 92 with ratification by Japan, effective April 1, 2014, and accession by Iraq, effective June 1, 2014.

1993 Intercountry Adoption Convention. With ratification or accession late in 2013 by Croatia, Serbia, and Haiti, effective April 1, 2014, there are currently 93 Contracting States for the Adoption Convention. The Hague Conference intends to convene a Special Commission to consider the practical operation of the Adoption Convention during the first half of 2015.

1996 Child Protection Convention. The recent accession of Georgia brings the number of Contracting States for the 1996 Convention to 40, including most of the countries of the European Union.  In April, the Hague Conference announced publication of its Practical Handbook on the Operation of the 1996 Convention, which will be an important tool to assist in bringing the Convention into force more widely.

2007 Child Support Convention. In April, the European Union became a contracting party to the Child Support Convention, which means that as of August 1, 2014, it will be in force in 31 countries: 27 EU member countries (excluding Denmark) plus Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Norway and Ukraine. The Hague Conference has also recently completed its Practical Handbook for Caseworkers under the Child Support Convention, and the new e-Country Profile system.


Annual Reports from the Office of Children’s Issues

Two important statistical reports come from the Office of Children’s Issues in the US State Department each spring.  In March 2014, OCI released its Annual Report on Intercountry Adoption, which showed a total of 7,094 incoming adoptions and 84 outgoing adoptions during fiscal year 2013. The incoming adoption figure represents another decline compared to the FY 2012 number of 8,668 and particularly the from the peak number of 22,991 in FY 2014. The five most common countries of origin in FY 2013 were China (2306 children), Ethiopia (993), Ukraine (438), Haiti (388) and the Congo (313).

In April 2014, OCI posted the child abduction case statistics for the 2013 calendar year and the annual Hague Compliance Report mandated by Congress.


CRC Committee Reports on the Vatican and Children’s Rights

As a Contracting State to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Vatican appeared before the Committee on the Rights of the Child during its 65th session in January 2014 to report on its progress in implementing the treaty.  The Committee’s  Concluding Observations and Recommendations, posted online on February 5, have drawn wide attention for its strongly worded criticisms.  See, for example, Laurie Goodstein, Nick Cumming-Bruce, and Jim Yardley, U.N. Panel Criticizes the Vatican Over Sexual Abuse, NY Times (Feb. 5, 2014), and Lizzie Davies and Henry McDonald, UN denounces Vatican over child abuse and demands immediate action, Guardian (5 Feb. 2014). Although the history of clerical sexual abuse garnered the biggest headlines, the CRC report also addressed issues regarding discrimination against non-marital children, the financial and identity rights of children born to Catholic priests, corporal punishment, and the forcible removal of babies from their mothers in Spain and the Magdalene laundries in Ireland.

Three New Countries Join the Hague Adoption Convention

Croatia, Haiti and Serbia joined the Hague Adoption Convention in December 2013.  It will come into effect in all three countries on April 1, 2014, bringing the number of Contracting States to 93. The Hague Conference announcement is available here.

The US State Department is currently assessing whether it will be able to certify Convention adoptions from Haiti after March 31; see this statement posted on  January 16. There has been no similar notice posted to date for either Serbia or Croatia.

Japan Joins the Abduction Convention

Japan deposited its instrument of ratification for the Hague Child Abduction Convention on Friday, January 24, 2014 and became the 91st contracting state.  The Convention will enter into force for Japan on April 1. The announcement from the Hague Conference is posted here, and a press release from the US Embassy in Japan welcoming the news is available here.

US Supreme Court hears new Hague Abduction Case

The Supreme Court heard arguments on December 11  in Lozano v. Alvarez, a case raising issues regarding “equitable tolling” under Article 12 of the Hague Child Abduction Convention. (For background, please see our previous post.) The Court makes available both an audio recording of the oral arguments  and the transcript.

An analysis of the arguments by Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog is available here.  SCOTUSblog also has links to the briefs filed in the case , including amicus briefs filed by the United States and by the Mexican Association for Abducted and Missing Children, the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (IAML), Reunite International Child Abduction, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, A Child Is Missing, Inc., and the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment & Appeals Project (DV LEAP).