Joy, anger for fam­ily of Mex­i­can girl wrongly forced to go to US


When a woman in Texas claimed that Alon­dra Luna Nunez was her long-lost daugh­ter, the girl’s real par­ents in Mex­ico say they pre­sented more than a dozen doc­u­ments from bap­tismal records and a copy of her birth cer­tifi­cate to fam­ily pho­to­graphs. They were sure it was enough to demon­strate her true ori­gins.

In the end, they say, Alon­dra was sent scream­ing to the U.S. based on a scar on the bridge of her nose re­sult­ing from a re­mote-con­trol car mishap as a young girl. And they blame their trau­matic week­long sep­a­ra­tion squarely on the judge who made the fi­nal call.

“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, 14, told The As­so­ci­ated Press on Wed­nes­day at an emo­tional re­u­nion with fam­ily af­ter nearly a week away. “The judge said, ‘ No, it’s her,’ and that was that.”

DNA testing proved Alon­dra was not Hous­ton res­i­dent Dorotea Garcia’s daugh­ter.

The case drew in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion af­ter a video of the dis­traught girl be­ing forced into a po­lice ve­hi­cle last week cir­cu­lated in me­dia and on so­cial net­works.

Judge Cinthia Elo­dia Mer­cado told the AP that she held to her obli­ga­tion to make sure that in­ter­na­tional child-ab­duc­tion con­ven­tions were fol­lowed.

“Our only job is to re­solve whether the child needs to be re­turned or not,” she said. But the re­sult­ing drama touched not only Alon­dra’s fam­ily in Mex­ico but also Garcia, who be­lieved she had fi­nally found her daugh­ter, Alon­dra Diaz Garcia, taken from the U.S. il­le­gally by her fa­ther nearly a decade ago.

That girl’s where­abouts are un­known, and a felony war­rant re­mains for the fa­ther, Rey­naldo Diaz, who is sus­pected of ab­duct­ing her from Hous­ton in 2007.

Garcia, speak­ing to a Hous­ton tele­vi­sion sta­tion, said the first time she saw Alon­dra Luna, “I saw my daugh­ter.” She gave few de­tails about how she ended up leav­ing Mex­ico with the girl, although she 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 said later to the AP. “What­ever ex­pla­na­tion I give won’t change the minds of peo­ple in Mex­ico or here.”

Alon­dra said Garcia and the woman’s fam­ily mem­bers apol­o­gized to her be­fore she re­turned.

‘Anger. Rage. Pow­er­less­ness’

Af­ter Alon­dra flew into Gua­na­ju­ato in Cen­tral Mex­ico around noon Wed­nes­day, the fam­ily gath­ered for an af­ter­noon and evening bar­be­cue at her aunt’s house. They cel­e­brated with bal­loons, stream­ers and steak and chorizo sausage siz­zling on the grill.

“Wel­come to your real home, Alon­dra,” read a home­made sign.

Wear­ing jeans, a gray T-shirt and a sil­ver neck­lace with an im­age of the Vir­gin of Guadalupe, Alon­dra laughed and hugged broth­ers, cousins, aunts and un­cles. As the sun went down in the hilly work­ing­class neigh­bor­hood where they live, 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.

Garcia trav­eled to Mex­ico this year and said she had found her daugh­ter in Gua­na­ju­ato, prompt­ing U.S. au­thor­i­ties to seek Interpol’s help in re­triev­ing her. She did not elab­o­rate how, in her brief com­ments to the AP. Many things re­mained un­clear, in­clud­ing who called Interpol from the U.S.

On April 16, Mex­i­can agents as­signed to Interpol took Alon­dra from her mid­dle school and trans­ported her to a court­room in the neigh­bor­ing state of Mi­choa­can, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from the fed­eral At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Of­fice.

Alon­dra’s par­ents and Garcia each pre­sented doc­u­ments and gave tes­ti­mony, then the judge ruled in fa­vor of Garcia, order­ing the girl into her cus­tody. A court of­fi­cial, who was not au­tho­rized to speak to the press, said on con­di­tion of anonymity that Alon­dra’s par­ents didn’t present proper doc­u­ments.

Alon­dra and Garcia went by bus to Hous­ton, cross­ing at Laredo, Texas, with the birth cer­tifi­cate of Garcia’s daugh­ter and the court or­der, ac­cord­ing to Mex­ico’s For­eign Min­istry.

“Anger. Rage. Pow­er­less­ness that they could tear my daugh­ter from my arms. Sad­ness,” said Su­sana Nunez, Alon­dra’s mother. “I didn’t sleep. I didn’t eat. I said, `How is my daugh­ter, what is she do­ing?”’

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. Still, 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.

Alon­dra said she asked for a DNA test in Mex­ico but it was de­nied. The mag­is­trate who ruled on the case said it wasn’t within her author­ity to or­der one.

“We as judges are only re­spon­si­ble to re­solve the case with re­spect to re­cov­er­ing the mi­nor,” Elo­dia Mer­cado said. “We don’t do in­ves­ti­ga­tions or make in­quiries.”

Alon­dra asked again for a DNA test this week in the United States, and Mex­ico’s For­eign Min­istry also in­ter­vened af­ter the video caused an up­roar.

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