Apr 23, 2015 1:22 AM

Joy, anger for family of Mexican girl wrongly sent to US

The Associated Press

GUANAJUATO, Mexico (AP) 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.

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 working-class 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.

Family members were spending the day together in private again Thursday, and Alondra planned to return to school on Monday.

Uncle Ruben Nunez said the family was considering whether to pursue legal action, though he did not specify any potential targets of a lawsuit and said no lawyer has been consulted.

Garcia traveled to Mexico this year and said she had found her daughter in Guanajuato. She did not elaborate how, in her brief comments to the AP.

That prompted U.S. authorities to file a petition with Mexico, according to the Mexican Foreign Ministry, and the case was then forwarded to the judge.

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 the Foreign Ministry. It said no agent accompanied the two on the bus trip.

Susana Nunez, Alondra's mother, confirmed that no official traveled with them but said she had not had a chance to ask her daughter for more details of the trip, 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?'"

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.


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.


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