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How minor children of Mexican nationals who become involved with the state Children, Youth and Families Department are treated has been clarified under an updated memorandum of understanding signed by the Consulate of Mexico and the CYFD in a ceremony Tuesday morning.
The MOU – a written agreement between New Mexico, and the Consulates of Mexico in Albuquerque and El Paso ensuring collaboration when handling Mexican youth in the country – was initially created and signed into effect in 2009. The document had not been updated since then.
“This is the strongest agreement of its kind in the United States, and the only one to our knowledge that systemically provides access by all juvenile justice-involved Mexican youth to their consulate,” said Barbara Vigil, CYFD cabinet secretary.
The document spells out ways parents residing in Mexico should be involved in their child’s welfare and juvenile justice cases in New Mexico, Vigil said. It also includes a newly added, detailed list of responsibilities for both nations, such as the search for family members, protection of information and reunification of young Mexican citizens with their parents or other immediate family members back home.
Norma Ang, consul of Mexico in Albuquerque, and Vigil met at the Consulate north of Downtown for a brief ceremony where both stressed the importance of the collaboration between the two countries in creating the agreement.
“Updating this MOU took us many months of continuous work to reflect the progress made in understanding the unique challenges faced by migrant communities and binational families,” Ang said.
Ang thanked CYFD for the help it provided over the past couple of years as cases of child neglect and abuse or juvenile offenses have grown exponentially. She also recognized her consular team, which worked to create “one of the most complete MOUs on the subject.”
“This agreement is a reflection of our joint commitment to promote the safety, permanency and wellbeing of children of Mexico,” Ang said.
Cecilia Parra, outreach coordinator of Casa Fortaleza, was among the crowd during the ceremony. Casa Fortaleza is a nonprofit shelter in Albuquerque that provides support services mainly to Mexican nationals.
Parra said she believes agreements such as these are essential to creating proper tools for people living in a foreign country where they may lack access to a legal system that supports them.
Vigil took to the podium to discuss the importance of ensuring international borders don’t impede either country’s efforts to maintain cultural connections and reunite children with their families.
“We look forward to this continuing effort, this difficult but critical work together for years to come and look forward to supporting our Mexican families here in New Mexico,” Vigil said.