Georgia’s child welfare agency signed an agreement Wednesday with the Mexican Consulate to provide assistance to Mexican children who enter the system.
When a Mexican child comes in contact with the Division of Family and Children Services, the Mexican Consulate is supposed to be notified immediately, according to international law.
But that hasn’t always happened.
“Sometimes many of the local jurisdictions in the United States, and here in Georgia specifically, are not aware of these obligations under international law,” says Javier Diaz de Leon, consul general of Mexico in Atlanta.
The international law that governs foreign national minors in a country’s custody is the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations first signed in the 1960s, as well as the Bilateral Convention between the United States and Mexico.
“We know from our experience that getting involved early is critical to have the local authorities, local family court [in Georgia] to make the best decision possible.”
Diaz de Leon says that when the consulate is involved early, it can help with identifying family in the U.S. that a child could live with — or family in Mexico. That may include getting in contact with a deported parent.
“One of the most difficult issues we deal with is what to do when you have a child, especially a child maybe born here to parents who have been deported to Mexico,” says Tom Rawlings, interim director of the Division of Family and Children Services.
The agreement signed in Georgia is modeled on similar memorandums with consulates in North Carolina, Arizona and California. The memorandum between the consulate and Georgia has been in the works for at least two years.
Rawlings would like to see similar agreements with consulates of other countries.
The consul general of Guatemala in Atlanta, Telma Borrayo, was present at the signing. She says she’ll study the agreement and determine if a similar memorandum could work with the Guatemalan Consulate.
“We are learning from Mexico,” she says.