Mexican girl mistakenly sent to US woman is back home
GUANAJUATO, Mexico (AP) — Alondra Luna Nunez was a young girl when she had a mishap with a remote-control car, leaving a scar between her eyebrows. Last week, that scar resulted in the teenager being misidentified as a missing girl from Texas, and then spirited north to live with a woman who claimed to be her mother.
After a weeklong saga in which Alondra was videotaped as she was dragged screaming from a Mexican courtroom, the 14-year-old is back at home with the family that a DNA test proved is hers.
Her parents place blame on the Mexican judge who refused to accept the pile of documents they presented as proof of Alondra’s identity, from baptismal records and a copy of her birth certificate to family photographs.
“The other girl had a scar, but on the eyebrow, and I have one on my nose. I mean all this was stirred up over that,” Alondra told The Associated Press at an emotional reunion with her family Wednesday. “The judge said, ‘No, it’s her,’ and that was that.”
How Alondra came to be identified as the long-missing daughter of Houston resident Dorotea Garcia and then sent to live with her in the United States is unclear.
Judge Cinthia Elodia Mercado told the AP she was obligated to ensure that Mexico followed international conventions on child abductions.
“Our only job is to resolve whether the child needs to be returned or not,” she said.
Alondra’s parents said they believed the documents they presented should have been accepted as valid. However, a court official, who was not authorized to speak to the press and spoke on condition of anonymity, said their documents were not proper.
Elodia Mercado said it wasn’t within her authority to order a DNA test as Alondra had requested.
“We, as judges, are only responsible to resolve the case with respect to recovering the minor,” the judge said. “We don’t do investigations or make inquiries.”
Alondra apparently was identified as the missing girl by Garcia in Guanajuato. Speaking briefly to the AP, the Houston woman did not elaborate on how she did so.
Garcia told a Houston television station that the first time she saw Alondra Luna, “I saw my daughter.”
The Mexican Foreign Ministry said Garcia’s identification of Alondra prompted U.S. authorities to file a petition for her return and the case then was forwarded to the judge.
Officials in the State Department and the FBI, however, could not find any indication their agencies were involved in recent events. The only action recorded came in 2007 when the State Department filed an international child-abduction report about Garcia’s daughter.
Based on Elodia Mercado’s order, Mexican federal police went to Alondra’s middle school in Guanajuato on April 16 and transported her to the magistrate’s courtroom in the neighboring state of Michoacan.
After examining documents presented by Alondra’s parents and Garcia, and hearing their testimony, the judge ruled in Garcia’s favor.
Garcia traveled with Alondra by bus to the border, crossing at Laredo, Texas. Alondra was granted entry based on the birth certificate of Garcia’s daughter and the court order, according to the Foreign Ministry.
Alondra said she was terrified at first, having never been so far from her parents, but was confident that ultimately the truth would come out and she would return.
The video of her being forced into a police vehicle after the court ruling was circulated widely, causing an uproar and public demands for an investigation. Upon reaching the United States, Alondra again asked for a DNA test, which was conducted at the Mexican consulate in Houston.
Alondra’s family celebrated her return to Guanajuato on Wednesday with a barbecue of steak and chorizo sausage at her aunt’s house, decorated with balloons, streamers.
“Welcome to your real home, Alondra,” read a homemade sign.
The girl, wearing jeans, a gray T-shirt and a silver necklace with an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, laughed and hugged brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles. As the sun went down in their hilly working-class neighborhood, family and friends lit candles and recited the rosary on a sidewalk. Alondra wept as an elderly neighbor swept her into an embrace that lasted for minutes.
Family members spent the day together in private Thursday, and Alondra planned to return to school Monday.
Her uncle, Ruben Nunez, said the family was considering whether to pursue legal action.
Susana Nunez, Alondra’s mother, said she had not had a chance to ask her daughter for more details of the trip to Houston, such as whether she tried to convince border agents that Garcia was not her mother.
“Anger. Rage. Powerlessness that they could tear my daughter from my arms. Sadness,” Nunez said, recalling her emotions of the last week. “I didn’t sleep. I didn’t eat. I said, ‘How is my daughter? What is she doing?’”
Her father, Gustavo Luna, said there were moments when he feared he might never see her again.
“A lot of things went through my mind ... at those moments you fear the worst,” Luna said.
As for Garcia, her daughter, Alondra Diaz Garcia, remains missing.
The girl allegedly was taken from Houston by her father, Reynaldo Diaz, in 2007 and was believed to have been in Mexico. Diaz is wanted on a felony warrant.
Alondra said Garcia and the woman’s relatives apologized to her before she left Texas.
Garcia said she knows many won’t look kindly on her actions.
“The people who know me don’t need me to give an explanation for what happened,” she told the AP. “Whatever explanation I give won’t change the minds of people in Mexico or here.”
Associated Press writers Mario Armas in Leon, Mexico, E. Eduardo Castillo and Katherine Corcoran in Mexico City and Juan Lozano in Houston contributed to this report.