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INS Seeks Public’s Help in Identifying Parents of Smuggled ‘Baby Marcos’

Times Staff Writer

U. S. immigration authorities are seeking the public’s help in identifying an infant boy who was taken into custody along with two smugglers and a group of illegal aliens almost eight months ago.

The youth, believed to be slightly more than 1 year old, has been dubbed “Baby Marcos,” after a name initially used by one of the smugglers. No one seems to know his parents, legal guardians or country of origin.

Although it is not unusual for immigration agents to come across smuggled infants, particularly along the Mexican border, officials say this is the first known case in which authorities have been unable to locate a parent or legal guardian for such a long period.

Usually parents, even those who are illegal aliens, appear within a few days, often subjecting themselves to deportation, to be reunited with their children. Not this time, however.

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“What we’ve got is a bouncy, lively, bright young baby boy,” said Clifton Rogers, deputy district director for the U. S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in San Diego, gateway to the United States for hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens each year. “He should never have been placed in a situation like this. With smugglers, unfortunately, human concerns go by the wayside for a quick buck.”

Smuggling Plan Went Awry

If the child’s parents or legal guardians do materialize and turn out to be undocumented, Rogers vowed that immigration authorities will not arrest them. However, he said they, like all other illegal immigrants, could face deportation or voluntary INS “return” to their home country.

Authorities speculate that the child’s parents or guardians, perhaps themselves undocumented, paid the smugglers to deliver the child to them in the United States. That plan went awry when the smuggling vehicle was stopped, however, and the child became one more person separated from its family during the massive movement of humanity that has long characterized the border area.

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The child has been staying in a San Diego foster home.

Authorities, meantime, have followed a maddening series of leads seeking clues to his parentage. Officials have circulated photographs in Mexico, checked rumors that his mother was in jail, and met with child-care officials and other authorities in two nations--all to no avail.

“What we’re doing now is going out and asking the public, and particularly the Hispanic community, to aid us in seeing if we can reunite this baby with its natural mother or legal guardian,” Rogers said.

The INS plans to present the child at a press conference in San Diego today and distribute a telephone number for use by anyone with information on the child. Among those expected to attend is INS Western Regional Commissioner Harold W. Ezell, who called the child “a loving . . . helpless victim of a just plain despicable criminal element.”

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Tried to Cross at San Ysidro

The child was discovered in a smuggling vehicle last May 18 along with two Mexican women who were identified as the smugglers and four adult citizens of Uruguay who were being smuggled into the United States and had paid $600 each for the passage, according to the INS. Their car attempted to run the inspection booths at the San Ysidro border crossing, officials said.

The driver of the vehicle, Julieta Perez Betancourt, 40, of Tijuana, at first claimed to be the child’s mother, and the other smuggler, Maria Herrera Lopez, 45, also of Tijuana, said she was the grandmother. The two women have since disavowed any relation to the infant and have refused to cooperate in identifying the child, according to the INS. Authorities say they do not believe the women are related to the infant.

In June, both women pleaded guilty in U. S. District Court in San Diego to one count of conspiracy to smuggle aliens. Perez served a 100-day sentence, and Herrera served 30 days, authorities said.

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The four others in the car, who claimed not to be related to the child, were returned to Uruguay, officials said.

Authorities vowed to continue the search for the parents. If the child’s legal guardians are not found, officials said he could eventually be declared a ward of the state and turned over to child-welfare officials for placement.


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