Select It Sunday: Isabella Miller-Jenkins

This week’s Select It Sunday case was chosen by Maddie C (she emailed, coincidentally, a few days before I received my most recent loony email): Isabella Ruth Miller-Jenkins, a seven-year-old who was abducted by her mother, Lisa Ann Miller, from Bedford, Virginia back in 2010. Lisa took her south; I think they were last known to be in Nicaragua. Isabella would now be fourteen.

This is a very high-profile family abduction case, mostly because Isabella’s parents are both women and Lisa is an ex-gay, right-wing Christian whose cause other right-wing Christian people have embraced — to the extent that several of them faced charges for helping her.

Lisa and Isabella’s other mother, Janet Jenkins, had split up amicably and Isabella lived with Lisa and had visitation Janet, but after Lisa joined Jerry Falwell‘s church, she decided homosexuality was sinful and wouldn’t let Isabella see Janet anymore because she didn’t want to expose her to that way of life. Several years of legal wrangling later, a family court judge transferred custody to Janet because he thought this was the only way Isabella could maintain a relationship with both mothers. In response, Lisa took her.

I am very much an LGBT ally, but even if I wasn’t, this case is really no different than any other family abduction case. You’ve got one parent who refused to let their ex see the child, alienated the child against her ex, made false accusations of abuse by the ex, and decided she was above the law and didn’t have to obey court rulings. This started long before the abduction, when the judge tried to enforce the visitation schedule by fining Lisa $25 for every day she wouldn’t allow Isabella to see Janet. Lisa racked up thousands in fines.

And to top it off, when they left Virginia, Lisa left Isabella’s pet hamsters behind at home to die a slow, horrible death of dehydration and thirst. Because, you see, if she asked anyone to look after them, that might tip the authorities off that they were going on the run. So she’s an animal abuser as well as a child abuser. Parental abduction is demonstrably child abuse, and Lisa is using religion as a shield for her crimes.

Not cool, Lisa. Not cool at all.

And now Isabella is probably living in pretty miserable conditions. El Salvador, one country where she and Lisa might be living, is an incredibly violent place and is considered the murder capital of the world. Although Nicaragua is safer by comparison, that’s not saying much, and Nicaragua is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, after Haiti. If Isabella is like most victims of family abduction — even those who aren’t living in third world countries — she is not receiving adequate education or health care. And of course she’s been completely cut off from the other side of her family, who love her. Lisa has, so far, stolen six and a half years of her life.

This is all pretty standard, alas, for family abductions. I cannot begin to explain how much parental kidnappers, and those that support them, disgust me.

Make-a-List Monday: Central American MPs

Missing persons who are native to a Central American country — as defined between Guatemala and Panama.

Costa Rica
Nobody (though there are several who are thought to be there, or planned to travel there, or had been there before they went missing)

El Salvador
Sandra Yaneth Aguilar-Granados (I think)
Oscar Giovanni Garcia-Calles
Samuel Esay Garcia-Calles
Katya Marie Lyne
Senovia Medina
Cecilia Elizabeth Newball
Kimberly Abigail Orellana
Jose Francisco Fuentes Pereira
Eric Fernando Salguero Franco

Adrian Garcia Najera
Francisco Javier Sanchez
Rolando Schweikert
Romeo Sierra-Portillo

Melvin Eduardo Turcios Cedillo
Juan Ramon Madrid-Bueso
Isabel Rodriguez

Donald Marcelino Alvarez-Vallecillo
Yansis Massiel Juarez
Blanca Elisa Roberson

Tilsia Peralta Martinez

Border crossings

I just found this excellent CNN article on the 1993 disappearance of Jose Francisco Fuentes Periera. Before this I had known practically nothing about his disappearance.

Seven-year-old Jose, along with two older brothers, his sister and an aunt, disappeared shortly after sneaking over the US border in southern California. They were part of a large group of people being smuggled in and someone yelled “policia,” and then everyone freaked out and scattered. When they all calmed down and found each other again, Jose was missing. The smugglers, after escorting everyone to safety, went back with a search party, but he’s never been found.

The prospects of finding Jose seem pretty bleak. They’re not even sure exactly where he disappeared, since they were all out in the middle of nowhere. Further, Jose didn’t know his date of birth or his last name, and he might not have known his real first name, since everyone called him by the nickname Paquito. I suppose it goes without saying that he didn’t speak any English either. The family is originally from El Salvador. Jose and his siblings was going to join their mother, who had moved to the US four or five years before, leaving them to be raised by grandparents. They lived in a small, remote village and Jose had never attended school.

Quite a few people — no one knows how many — disappear or die trying to cross the border every year. Because more urban areas are harder to get through, they try to go through the desert, where conditions are treacherous and it’s easy to get lost. Then, naturally, people are afraid to report disappearances and bring themselves to the attention of the authorities, and it’s likely that the authorities themselves will squabble over jurisdictional issues. I tried to see how many others on Charley disappeared during a border crossing and came up with Melvin Cedillo, Sandra Aguilar-Granados, Delfina Guzman, Miguel Cisneros and Armando Rivera Noriega. I’m sure this barely scratches the surface of the problem, though. I also have a few illegal immigrants who disappeared within the United States.

Like sex trade workers, people who vanish or become crime victims while illegally crossing the border are seen as having brought this on themselves, and I’ve seen some people speculate as to why the cops should bother to look for them, since it’s not like there aren’t enough crimes to investigate already. I think that kind of behavior/thinking is disgusting. However you stand on the immigration issue, these people are people, and if they disappeared within our borders then our authorities have an obligation to try to locate them.