Abducted Grandsons of Congressman Gary Miller Returned Home

The three abducted grandsons of U.S. Rep. Gary Miller, R-CA have been found and returned.  The oldest boy is now 12 and the younger twins are 10 years old.  Read about it here (Sacramento Bee, 8/11/11). Back in November of 2007, the boys’ mother, Jennifer Dejongh was supposed to drop them off at Miller’s house for an extended stay.  She never showed up.  Instead, she (apparently along with her boyfriend) abducted the boys to Mexico. 
Three days ago, they were apprehended by Mexican authorities in Mexicali south of Tijuana. Dejongh has been arrested and charged with three counts of custody deprivation.  She was handed over by Mexican authorities to police in Los Angeles County.  She’s being held on $500,000 bond and pled ‘not guilty’ to the charges in court on Friday. Dejongh and ex-husband Brian Miller, Representative Miller’s son, were divorced and had joint custody of the children at the time Dejongh absconded with them.  Her flight had been prefaced by the pair’s ongoing legal squabble over custody.  That included allegations of child abuse by Dejongh against Miller which were investigated and found to be unsubstantiated.  So far this looks like a run-of-the-mill case of parental child abduction.  More U.S. children are abducted to Mexico than to any other foreign country.  That’s because (a) there’s a large Mexican population in the U.S. and many of the abducting parents have ties to Mexico and (b) Mexico is particularly lax about enforcing the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction to which it is a signatory.  In the Miller case, Dejongh, whose unmarried name was Lopez, had ties to Mexico and she and the boys were able to live there undetected for almost four years.   It’s good to see the children returned to their father, and the mother behind bars.  I’ve said before that the psychology on child abduction accurately calls it child abuse.  Abducted children suffer the absence of the left-behind parent and live their lives in a state of upheaval, always on the run with a parent who’s likely changed his/her own name and that of the children abducted. If children thrive on stability, parental abduction of them accomplishes the opposite.  Into the bargain, abducting parents are themselves often emotionally/psychologically troubled and particularly needy of the child’s undivided affection.  So abducting parents aren’t the best people to care for children  in any situation, especially one that’s unfamiliar and often changing. So the chances are the three Miller kids will have some adjusting to do. But speaking of the Hague Convention, isn’t it interesting that none of the newspaper articles on this case mention it?  What usually happens in these cases when the abducting parent is found, does so according to the rules of the Hague Convention.  Or at least that’s what should happen.  Indeed, it is one of the big problems parents have with Mexico that, while it’s a signatory nation, it almost universally ignores the Convention’s goal of return of the child within 60 days of the parent’s apprehension. When they’re found, it routinely takes years to pry them loose from the grip of the Mexican legal system.  Such at least is the experience of most parents, some of whom even testified before a congressional sub-committee on the matter earlier this year.  The short story is that the Mexican systems of criminal and family law aren’t compatible with the Hague Convention and they’re outright hostile to American fathers who want their children back from abducting Mexican mothers.  Mexican law makes no secret of its preference for maternal custody and, Convention or no Convention, it’s that preference that rules. But compare the years of anguish most American parents endure trying to get their children back from Mexico with what happened in Brian Miller’s case.  First, both Mexican and American officials collaborated on locating Dejongh.  Then, once she was found, she was promptly arrested, taken to Tijuana and on to the U.S.  She was clapped in jail and the children returned to their grandparents, one of whom just happens to be a U.S. congressman. The whole process, from apprehension to return of the children took, as far as I can tell, two days.  Funny how that works. As I said, I’m glad the boys are back and safe, and that Jennifer Dejongh is facing criminal sanctions for her abuse of them.  But what I also would have liked is for the Congressman to learn a bit about how the rest of us live.  Unlike him, when our children are abducted, we don’t go to the head of the line; we don’t have the cooperation of U.S. officials (the indifference of the U.S. State Department was one of the major grievances aired before the congressional sub-committee), and when our kids are found, we have to slog through the tortuous meanderings of a recalcitrant Mexican legal system. Not so Congressman Miller.  I’d like him to experience the real-life way the system works, not because I have any brief against him, but because it might be the best way to make some changes in the way child abduction to Mexico is treated by U.S. governments.  As long as government figures get special treatment, they’ll never know what We the People have to deal with.

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