Week in Review : MAJOR EVENTS, IMAGES AND PEOPLE IN ORANGE COUNTY NEWS. : CITIES : Search for Woman Ends Happily at Shelter
The story of Maria Arevalos could have ended in tragedy, but it didn’t. And that was probably due to the kindness of numerous people and the persistence of one man in particular.
The 34-year-old Mexican woman--who is deaf and able to speak only a few words of Spanish--had been separated May 1 from her common-law husband, Jose Herrera, when she was removed from a train in Oceanside by Immigration and Naturalization Service agents for questioning about her citizenship.
Herrera, who has permanent resident status in the United States and was taking the woman to Fresno where he lives, said the agents ignored his explanation that she could not hear and took her away.
Because they could not establish she was in the country illegally, INS officers took Arevalos to their San Clemente office and put her on a bus to Los Angeles, launching her on a five-day odyssey in a strange land. She communicated to various people that she had walked for several days and slept in parks at night.
Then she met Costa Mesa Police Officer Harlan Pauley, who recognized her plight and finally arranged for Arevalos to be taken in at Hearth House, a shelter for the homeless in Garden Grove.
Herrera, meanwhile, searched long and fruitlessly in Fresno, Tijuana and Los Angeles before finally telling his story to The Times last Wednesday.
Workers at Hearth House recognized Arevalos from a picture accompanying the story, and the woman had a joyous and tearful reunion with Herrera on Thursday.
“We are very, very happy and grateful for all the help everyone gave,” Herrera said. Arevalos’ dark eyes conveyed the same message.