“Settled” Girl Can Stay Despite Illegal Status: Judge

Ruling on 11-year-old Mexican girl overturned

A Mexican girl residing illegally with her mother in Huntington Beach has the right to stay while her father wages a custody battle from abroad because she is "settled" in her new country, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The decision Wednesday overturned a District Court judgment that would have sent the 11-year-old to live with her father in Acapulco, the Los Angeles Times reported.

This was the first case to address whether a child should be allowed to remain in the United States during an international custody dispute, to prevent further "distress."

The ruling by a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals appeared to be a new interpretation of the Hague Conventions on the protection of children in cross-border disputes, establishing that a right of stability be considered, along with each parent's compliance with the law, The Times reported.

Ivan Nemecio Salmeron brought the action under the international conventions protecting abducted children, according to The Times. He alleged that the girl's mother, Geremias Brito, had kept their daughter in Orange County years beyond the few months' visit to which he had agreed in 2002.

Although Brito has lived most of her life in the United States and Salmeron spent eight years here before being deported for three criminal infractions, neither parent has legal U.S. residency, The Times reported. Their daughter was born in 1996 in Acapulco, after Salmeron's deportation.

Alleging domestic violence and infidelity, Brito left Salmeron and took her daughter back to Orange County in 2001, according to The Times. The child spent the summer of 2002 with her father in Mexico, but later remained in the United States during the five-plus years when Salmeron petitioned U.S. and Mexican authorities to intervene.

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