GUATEMALA CITY – The Guatemalan woman who claims that her daughter was abducted and later adopted by a couple in Missouri plans to travel to the U.S. to ask a court for her daughter to be returned, despite the U.S. State Department claiming it doesn't have jurisdiction to help return the girl.
The State Department confirmed Tuesday that it has informed Guatemala's government that it can't help return Anyeli Hernández Rodríguez because the U.S. and Guatemala had not signed the Hague Abduction Convention at the time of the alleged kidnapping in 2006.
"We're obviously deeply concerned about allegations regarding stolen children and inter-country adoptions wherever these cases come up," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement. "We consider the appropriate venue in the United States for pursuing this case is in the state courts. They're the competent organ for holding a full hearing on the merits and the best interests of the child."
A human rights group that has pursued the case in Guatemala's courts on behalf of the child's biological mother, Loyda Rodríguez, said the next step will be to find a U.S. law firm to file a civil suit charging immigration fraud.
The group, the Survivor Foundation, doesn't allege that the adoptive couple knew anything about the girl being kidnapped. It argues only that the adoption in 2008 wasn't valid because of the abduction and the girl should be returned to her biological mother.
In a phone conversation with The Associated Press, Rodriguez said she still has hope she will be reunited with her little girl, now 7, who she hasn't seen since she was 2.
"I'm looking for a law firm that will pursue this in the courts in the United States," she said. "Even if she can't come home, to at least be able to have contact with her."
Anyeli was born Oct. 1, 2004, the second child of Rodriguez, a housewife, and her bricklayer husband, Dayner Orlando Hernandez. She disappeared Nov. 3, 2006, as Rodriguez was distracted while opening the door to their house in a working class suburb, San Miguel Petapa. She turned to see a woman whisk the girl away in a taxi.
The girl spent over a year at an adoption agency before being adopted by Timothy and Jennifer Monahan of Liberty, Missouri.
Rodriguez obtained a Guatemalan court order last July for the return of Anyeli, who left the country on Dec. 9, 2008, according to court records. The court ruled that the girl had been stolen from her family.
A public relations firm the Monahans hired said last year that they "will continue to advocate for the safety and best interests of their legally adopted child." Their lawyer declined to comment Tuesday.
An attorney and the legal representative of the Guatemalan agency that handled the adoption were both convicted of human trafficking last fall. A third woman was detained and charged last month with trafficking, conspiracy and forgery in connection with the adoption.
"When Guatemalan authorities determined the adoption was illegal, it nullified all of the child's fraudulent documentation that was used to process her adoption. This includes her Guatemalan passport, which she used to exit the country," said Fredy Coti, a lawyer at the Survivors Foundation.
Coti believes that gives the case grounds for a hearing in Missouri state court.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.
Photo: Official U.S. Navy Imagery @ Flickr.