On December 5, nearly one year after she last saw her, Monica Sanchez was reunited with her 3-year-old daughter last week. The wait had been long and stressful – she hadn’t heard Sarahi’s voice or even seen a picture of her in 11 months – but she finally held her in her arms again.
In the August story Taken, I wrote about the struggles of two mothers whose children had been victims of international parental child abduction – a problem that plagues Texas more than almost any other state because of the border it shares with Mexico.
Sarahi’s father, Armando Muñoz Garcia, kidnapped his daughter in January and illegally took her to Mexico, where they lived in a small town in the state of Mexico. A family law judge ruled in May that Sarahi be returned to Texas for a custody hearing, but Garcia appealed the decision twice – first at the state, then at the federal level – before a federal judge reaffirmed the family law judge’s initial ruling.
A little more than a month later, a Texas RioGrande Legal Aid attorney, Mariano Nuñez, was able to pick Sarahi up in Mexico and bring her back to her mother in San Marcos. Sanchez says Sarahi is doing well and is happy to be home and to meet her new baby brother, but she will be going to therapy to deal with the trauma children face when they are abducted. Like many children who are abducted by a parent, Sarahi initially feared she’d be kidnapped again, this time by her mother, when she first saw her again.
Though Sanchez did not see her daughter for nearly a year, the case was resolved quickly compared to most international parental abduction cases, which can drag on for years. Rebecca Montalvo, who we also profiled in our August story, hasn’t seen the same success as Sanchez. A judge in Mexico recently denied her request to have her son returned to Texas, but she is appealing the decision.