Asylum Rattles Cross- Border Custody Battle

     (CN) - A federal judge must reconsider whether three Mexican children must return to their mother against their will or can stay in the United States, the 5th Circuit ruled.
     R.G.L., S.I.G.L., and A.S.G.L., as they are named in the court record, are minors who were born and raised in Mexico. After living with their mother, Angelica Sanchez, and her boyfriend in Chihuahua for a time, their aunt and uncle took them across the border to El Paso in June 2012, "either without Sanchez's permission or under false pretenses," according to the ruling.
     The children approached the Bridge of the Americas a month later to go back to Mexico after their mother asked for their return.
     As they crossed, they told Department of Homeland Security officers that they did not want to go back to Mexico because they were afraid of their mother's boyfriend, Arturo Quinonez, a member of the Azteca gang who they said was abusive.
     Sanchez and Quinonez reported the children kidnapped, and FBI agents interviewed both the children and their mother and her boyfriend. The children were transferred to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, and Sanchez and Quinonez returned to Mexico without them, the ruling states.
     To have her children returned to Mexico, Sanchez sued the children's aunt and uncle, as well as the director of Baptist Services Child and Family Services, who was providing their education.
     A federal judge in Texas ruled that the children were "wrongfully retained" under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, an international treaty that the U.S. and Mexico signed. The court said their situation did not apply to any of the Hague Convention's exceptions and ordered the children returned to their mother.
     That decision was stayed pending appeal, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has since granted the children asylum and transferred them to the physical custody of Catholic Charities.
     The 5th Circuit vacated the return order, 2-1, Thursday, echoing a similar opinion issued in February but adding that the Western District of Texas must reconsider the case with the government as a party respondent. Future hearings should take into account asylum grants, physiological assessments and other evidence not previously considered, the 20-page ruling states.
     "When faced with a motion to stay the proceedings while the children's asylum application was pending, the district court determined that the interests of a prompt answer under the [Hague] Convention outweighed the merits of a stay," Judge Leslie Southwick wrote for the majority. "Now that the children have been granted asylum, though, all available evidence from the asylum proceedings should be considered by the district court before determining whether to enforce the return order."
     Judge Harold DeMoss wrote in a brief dissent that the Hague Convention required his colleagues to affirm the order returning the children to their mother.