When California Has Jurisdiction over Mexican Citizens

Mother (M) was an American citizen living in Mexico with her two sons AC (age 6) and EC (age 15 months). Both of her sons were born in Mexico, thus Mexican citizens. M never disclosed the name of the father(s) of her sons.

In May of 2015, M was deported from Mexico to the United States at the San Ysidro, California Port of Entry (near San Diego, California). When she appeared at the border, her two sons were with her. Unfortunately, M appeared manic and acting irrationally (such as claiming to be telepathic), and officers feared for the safety of her children. The officers contacted the San Diego Police Department, and the police officers placed M under a three-day psych evaluation hold. Her sons were placed at the Polinsky Children’s Center (PCC).

On May 26, the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (Agency) filed a Welfare and Institutions Code Section 300 juvenile dependency hearing. Agency contended that M was not able to care for her sons because of her current psychiatric condition and her recent past criminal history, including attempting to bribe a police officer, carrying a concealed weapon, and a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.

The juvenile court ordered the children placed in foster care and set a future hearing date for June 16. Prior to the June 16 hearing, Agency recommended to the court that the children remain in foster care and reunification efforts be made. At the June 16 hearing, M failed to appear. Agency requested the court take temporary jurisdiction of the boys under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), and then contact Mexico to determine whether Mexico wanted to claim jurisdiction over the boys. The court agreed with Agency and set the next hearing for July 15. During this time, the court sent two e-mails and made numerous telephone calls to Mexican judicial authorities regarding the boys’ status. However, the Mexican authorities never responded.

At the July 15 hearing, the judge found that proper UCCJEA measures were taken regarding the jurisdiction of the boys and ruled it now had jurisdiction over the boys. M failed to appear at the hearing.

During the year 2015, the boys remained in foster care, and numerous attempts were made for reunification, but M failed to meet the requirements needed to regain custody of her sons. On May 23, 2016, the juvenile court terminated M’s reunification services and a hearing was set for permanent placement of the boys.

On February 14, 2017, M’s parental rights were terminated and the boys were eligible for adoption. Their foster parents were willing to adopt them. Although M did not appear at the hearing, she filed an appeal stating the juvenile court did not have jurisdiction of her boys due to their Mexican citizenship.

The Appellate Court agreed with the juvenile court stating that the juvenile court’s actions to determine whether Mexican authorities wanted to retain jurisdiction of the boys was were sufficient to take over jurisdiction under the UCCJEA. The Appellate Court also agreed with the juvenile court that its actions regarding M’s parental rights and subsequent adoptability of the boys met the legal state requirements.

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