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U.S. Judge Orders Kids Back With Mom In Mexico, Still Unclear When They'll Return Home

A little more than a week ago, I had a feature looking at a messy, complex legal case involving a mother in Mexico trying to get her children back.

The children are now in San Antonio, temporarily staying with foster parents and under the custody of the U.S. government.

How exactly they ended up in this situation is just as hard to believe as is who's telling the truth -- if it's the mother, Angelica Lopez, or her relatives in the U.S., who say she's mentally troubled and the kids are afraid of returning home. The relatives say the fear is due to a history of domestic violence at home at the hands of the mother's boyfriend, who's also accused of being a drug trafficker.

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The family feud took to federal court in San Antonio, where the mother sued to get her children back.

And now the judge in this case has ruled in her favor.

Judge Xavier Rodriguez threw out every motion against Angelica Lopez. He basically decided that she -- and the Mexican government, which supported her in court -- has a right under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction to get her children back. He determined that lawyers arguing against her did not produce enough evidence showing the kids would be harmed if returned home.

The mother's relatives, who live in El Paso and San Antonio, said they were shocked and depressed by the ruling.

The case against the mother has been maintained by the Center for Legal and Social Justice at St. Mary's University and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), both in San Antonio. And while deportation and child custody proceedings remain open in federal immigration court and state court, respectively, it remains unknown what will happen with those cases.

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Representatives with legal justice center (which represents the children in immigration court) and RAICES (which represents them in state court) were barred by Judge Rodriguez from being able to legally represent the children in federal court -- a move that the mother and the Mexican government, through its consulate in San Antonio, also opposed.

Judge's Order In Custody Case
A judge has ruled that children held in the U.S. should be returned to their mother in Mexico. But court appeals could drag out the process.
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I'm told the lawyers trying to represent the children will appeal the decision. But in his order, Judge Rodriguez made it abundantly clear he wants the children returned to their mother as soon as possible. Yet the federal appeals process could easily take months. That means the children would have to remain in U.S. custody during that period.

The mother told me she had seen them just once in the last year. While surely she's happy with the legal decision, she's not sure how she'll deal with having to be away from her kids for several more months.