by Jeremy D. Morley
The National Targeting Center in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency provides invaluable assistance in identifying parents and children about to leave the country in violation of U.S. court orders, provided the process is properly initiated.
Any parent who has obtained a valid and enforceable order from any court in the United States that bars the other parent or another specified person from removing the child from the United States can ask the Abduction Prevention Unit of the Office of Children's Issues of the U.S. State Department to place the identified parent (or other prohibited person) and the child on the prevent departure list maintained by the Office. The Office will need the actual court order and other identifying information, including dates of birth, and it will then coordinate with the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Custom and Border Prevention (the “CBP.)
The National Targeting Center (the “NTC”) is the unit of the CBP which analyzes traveler data and threat information to identify high-risk travelers before they board US-bound flights.
CBP creates travel alerts for identified and listed children who are at risk of international abduction and any potential abductors. Commercial carriers are required to transmit data on all outgoing and incoming travelers to CBP, which the NTC continuously monitors in real-time through an electronic data interchange system known as the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS), and it vets that information against the travel alerts. It then works with CBP officers and with local law enforcement to intercept the child before departure and to enforce the applicable valid court orders.
Counsel who are retained by parents to take measures to prevent their children from being abducted from the United States should normally use their best efforts to obtain enforceable and comprehensive court orders to prevent any such abduction. That will generally require counsel to consult with, and then to present evidence from, experts knowledgeable as to (a) the extent to which the specific country to which the child may be abducted is or is not likely to expeditiously return an internationally-abducted child, and (b) the risk factors of potential international child abduction. Once a court order is obtained, it is then incumbent on counsel to present the order and other required information to the State Department and to secure the requisite information concerning the child and the potential abductors to be included in the Prevent Abduction Program list so that a travel alert is promptly issued by the CBP.
Note, however, that such a listing is only one of the methods that should be employed in any effort to prevent international child abduction. The United States has no exit controls, and travel by public carrier is only one way for a child to be taken out of the country.