A San Tan Valley father embroiled in an international custody battle with authorities in Brazil is cautiously optimistic that he will get to see his daughter for the first time in 3 1/2 years and work out a custody agreement.
Michael Sanchez received word from the State Department last week that a meeting with Brazilian authorities and Nigia Machado, his ex-girlfriend and Emily Machado’s mother, has been tentatively scheduled for Aug. 16-17 in Brazil.
Machado took the girl to her native Brazil in March 2008 in the midst of a custody battle as she feared that authorities in the U.S. would penalize her for living here illegally.
By the time Sanchez makes his second trip again at his own expense, he hopes he can finally see Emily and that he can avoid a long and drawn-out legal battle with Brazil, which is not taking steps to abide by the Hague Treaty that requires countries to return a child to the country where they were born. Sanchez, 25, traveled to Brazil in October hoping to see Emily and talk to Machado after he had filed an initial well-being inquiry about Emily, but Machado refused to meet with him, saying she was too busy with school.
“This whole thing has been very frustrating,” Sanchez said. “Nigia needs to stop playing games so we can work something out and both be a part of Emily’s life. Who’s to say I get on the plane, land in Brazil and get 10 emails saying there won’t be any mediation. This has been destroying my life and Emily’s life. This situation isn’t going away. Emily needs a father.”
Sanchez also said that some of Machado’s relatives who live in the U.S. are calling his friends to tell him what Machado is willing to do in terms of a deal.
“They need to stop calling them and if they have anything to say, the need to talk to me,” Sanchez said. “I’m willing to work something out. This is an international kidnapping case and I’m trying to resolve this so we can be a family again.”
Machado could be facing federal kidnapping and abduction charges. Emily is among 60 children living in Brazil who are not being returned to parents in the country where they were born, which includes about 20 American children, according to information from the State Department.
Daisy Cardiel, a citizens services specialist with the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs Office of Children’s Issues who handles international child abduction cases in the Southwest, said she could not comment on the Machado case at this time.
Countries that are a party to the Hague Treaty have agreed that a child who is habitually a resident in one party country, and who has been illegally taken to or kept in another party country in violation of one parent’s custodial rights, shall be promptly returned for a custody hearing, according to Rosemary Macray, a spokeswoman for the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs Office of Children’s Issues.
Sanchez was permitted by a court in Illinois, where he lived in 2008, to see his daughter every other weekend and two days a week. But when he arrived at Machado’s apartment in March 2008, he found it empty with a note from Machado saying she was leaving with Emily. She said she was tired of battling in the courts and afraid of what could happen to her custodial status because she was not living in the country legally.
Sanchez, who last saw Emily when he had dinner with her and gave her a toy earlier that month, reported her missing on March 27, 2008.
“When I do get to see Emily, I just hope she remembers me,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez has chronicled his ordeal on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s website, where Emily’s disappearance is listed as a family abduction, and on a Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/daddyandemily
The ordeal also is chronicled on the website bringemilyhome.org
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