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Baby Marcos at Last Has an Identity

Times Staff Writer

U. S. authorities said Monday that Baby Marcos, the unidentified infant discovered almost eight months ago amid a group of smuggled aliens at the U.S.-Mexican border, is a U. S. citizen whose undocumented, drug-using parents apparently abandoned him.

The infant’s identity and that of his parents were determined after his paternal grandfather, Rene Herrera Perez of Tijuana, came forward after seeing pictures of the child in the Mexican media, according to the U. S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The child was identified as Marcos Antonio Herrera, who was born Sept. 20, 1987, at Riverside General Hospital. He has been living with a foster family in San Diego since being found last May in a car along with a group of Uruguayans and two Mexican smugglers who were attempting to illegally enter the United States from Tijuana.

Unusual Case

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Although authorities often find infants among the hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens arrested annually in the San Diego area, officials said this was the first case in memory in which a parent or relative had not stepped forward within a few days. The delay prompted stymied officials to go public last week, relating details of the case to the U. S. and Mexican press, and presenting the child for photographers and television cameras. The strategy worked.

The child’s plight has prompted considerable speculation. Among other theories, some authorities guessed that he may have been involved in a border baby-sale ring, and others postulated that he was being smuggled to relatives in the United States for a price. Another theory is that the child may have been used as a “show baby,” whose presence in a smuggling vehicle would presumably persuade border inspectors that the border crossers were legitimate.

In fact, his presence in the vehicle still remains a mystery.

Julieta Betancourt Perez, the driver of the car in which the 15-month-old child was found, is now believed to be the child’s grandmother. Betancourt, 40, a Tijuana resident who served a 100-day sentence for alien-smuggling in connection with the case, at first volunteered that she was the child’s grandmother but later denied it, according to the INS.

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The father, Marcos Antonio Herrera Perez, listed as 17 at the time of his son’s birth, was described by immigration authorities as a self-admitted heroin addict and undocumented worker from Mexico who lives in San Ysidro. Officials have been in contact with him.

The boy’s mother, Gloria Elena Cota, 29 years old when the boy was born, according to a birth certificate on file in Riverside County, was described by the INS as a drug user and a resident of Mexicali, Mexico.

Federal officials vowed not to remove the child from foster care until after a court rules on the fitness of his natural parents. The grandfather has expressed interest in having custody of the infant, but authorities would first have to deem him a suitable guardian after extensive investigation.

The child’s placement will now probably be determined by the San Diego County Department of Social Services. A spokeswoman, Marilyn Laurence, said the agency is investigating, but declined to comment further.

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Speaking generally about procedures in cases of abandoned or abused children, Laurence said authorities will thoroughly examine the home circumstances of any parent or relative before awarding custody of a child. The county has arrangements with social workers in Mexico who are capable of carrying out the legally required home studies and other investigations, Laurence said.


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