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Migrant family reunited thanks to Skype

Skype, the well-known video conferencing software, is not something one necessarily thinks of when reading a news story involving deportation and child custody hearings. However, in the case of one Mexican migrant family, it has made all the difference.

Recently, the parents of two girls were allowed to testify before a Pennsylvania court from Mexico via Skype after they had been deported from the country and could not get a visa to return for their custody hearing. It resulted in a favorable decision, and consequently, a reunion with their children.

The parents were accused of being unfit and after they didn't show up in court because of their immigration status, their daughters were taken from them. When it was soon determined that they were undocumented, the parents were deported while their kids remained in the United States.

The couple was allowed a hearing to prove that the allegations had been a cultural misunderstanding, but they could not get back into the country. However, using the free Skype program, the parents were allowed to prove their case in a hearing and their daughters were returned to them in Mexico.

Both Mexican and American lawyers involved with the case commented on this remarkable use of technology and its potential to reshape international legal proceedings.

The lawyer for the parents said that he believes hundreds of families could be in situation like this family was in, but lack the money to make a court appearance over the web. Usually the cost of renting equipment equivalent to Skype is very high, ranging from $300 to $500 dollars.

But Skype could change that and allow an inexpensive way for people who are out of the country to testify in court proceedings.

With this trend of video software on the rise in courtrooms, it could be large step forward in offering some measure of hope to people whose financial and/or physical constraints may not permit them to do everything possible to achieve their own legal goals.

Source: Associated Press, "Mexican parents recoup kids via Internet testimony," Mark Stevenson, 7/19/2011.

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