Arizona Father Pushes for Broader Access to Abducted Children’s Database

After Arizona resident Michael Sanchez experienced the removal of his daughter from the U.S. by her mother, he realized the need to allow broader access to national databases to find missing children when one parent abducts them in violation of custody agreements. In particular, airport security should have more access to search critical child abduction information when they see a child traveling with only one parent. Sanchez is leading the charge to enact Emily’s Law, which is named after his daughter, to prevent such scenarios.

Finding Emily

Michael Sanchez went to pick up his daughter Emily for a court-ordered visit during a custody battle in March of 2008. Emily was gone, however, abducted by her mother Nigia Machado and taken to her home country of Brazil. It was not until September of 2010 that Sanchez was notified of Emily’s location by Interpol. Although he had visited Brazil before, Sanchez was not able to see Emily until August of 2011, after a mediated child custody agreement, facilitated by the State Department and a Brazilian agency, was reached.

Parental Child Abduction

According to U.S. Department of Justice statistics, just over 200,000 children are abducted by their parents, guardians or other family members each year and removed from the U.S. Many of these child victims are less than six years of age, are taken by their fathers and are typically only missing for one week or less. Although cases do go unresolved, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) claims to have helped reunite almost 170,000 children with their families following a variety of kidnapping situations since 1984.

Petition for Emily’s Law

Michael Sanchez has collected over 1,200 signatures on his petition for Emily’s Law since July of 2011. Sanchez, who used to live in Illinois, has also met with two of the state’s politicians, U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky and Senator Dick Durbin, to gain more federal clout for the law. If enacted, Emily’s Law would grant more access for airport security personnel and related agencies to research national crime and child kidnapping databases to prevent international parental child abduction cases before they occur.

Enforcing Custody Agreements

While Sanchez admits pushing federal legislation like Emily’s Law through the system takes time, he sees progress in his attempt to help other parents and children avoid parental abduction situations. For Arizona parents who are considering divorce, who are currently engaged in a custody battle or who have problems with enforcing an existing custody arrangement, the most important thing to consider is what is in the best interests of the child. Working with experienced attorneys to draft sound custody agreements, to ensure these are enforced and to modify an ineffective or difficult custody arrangement is key.

If you are an Arizona parent and have concerns about any child custody or parenting time issues, contact an Arizona family law lawyer in your area to discuss your rights and options before the other parent, especially non-citizens of the U.S., makes any drastic moves.