With mom accused of taking daughters overseas, travel agent explains passport process for minors

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- One day after a Lawrence woman appeared in federal court for allegedly kidnapping her daughters, her travel agent spoke with FOX 4. Federal agents took Samantha Elmer into custody at Kansas City International Tuesday night after she flew back from Europe, where she's accused of taking her daughters in October, days before a custody hearing.

Travel agent Dave Bonnel didn't want to speak about the specifics of Elmer's case because of client confidentiality. He said he didn't know her when she came to his office and bought three plane tickets to Turkey for herself and her 9 and 11-year-old daughters. Bonnel was shocked to later learn about Elmer's kidnapping charges.

"No, I have not seen cases like that. No. No. It's not common at all," he said.

Bonnel explained how parents travel internationally with children and whether there are safeguards against kidnapping. The state department says both parents must be present to get a passport for a child under 16. He said the child must sign the passport, and if they're too young, the parent may do so.

Another safeguard: a letter of consent from both parents letting one parent travel with the child. But, Bonnel said, Customs and Border Patrol don't always check for it.

"It's not required. Every time you travel, you won't get asked. But anytime you travel you could be asked, on both the departure side and the entry side," he explained.

The problem, Bonnel said, is that there is no one letter or required form.

"It's just a letter you would write that would say I, Dave Bonnel, am taking my children to travel to Mexico. And then it would be notarized and stamped."

Bonnel said if authorities ask for that letter and you don't have it, you could get detained at the airport, but he calls the process a lack of checks and balances.

"You could totally make it," he said.

Bonnel also said the responsibility to check for parental proof belongs to Customs and Border Patrol, not the airline or the travel agency. For more information, click on this link.

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