A Mexican woman whose 7-month-old daughter was kidnapped from her Juarez home three months ago and smuggled into the United States was reunited with the girl Thursday in Henderson.
Mexican consulates in El Paso, Texas, and Las Vegas helped arrange the reunion between 19-year-old Francisca Garcia-Favila and her daughter, Alexandra.
“It was a very, very emotional and satisfying experience,” said Johannes Jacome, Mexico’s alternate consul in Las Vegas.
Garcia-Favila could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials worked with authorities from the Mexican attorney general’s office to track the infant, whom they discovered living in foster care in Clark County.
Alexandra was taken shortly before Thanksgiving, allegedly by a female acquaintance of Garcia-Favila named Rosario Hernandez, who had recently had a miscarriage, ICE officials said.
Hernandez then enlisted the help of a Juarez-based human smuggling ring to get herself and Alexandra across the U.S.-Mexico border, officials said.
Once Alexandra was on U.S. soil, her story became even more convoluted.
The baby somehow got separated from Hernandez, a Mexican national who was living in Las Vegas.
“When you’re being smuggled into the United States, a lot of things can happen,” said Virginia Kice, an ICE spokeswoman.
Hernandez was arrested and detained after being intercepted at a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol checkpoint in New Mexico.
Smugglers took the baby to Las Vegas anyway and turned her over to Hernandez’s former boyfriend, Gamaniel Villapando-Triste, officials said. Hernandez had told Villapando-Triste that he was the baby’s father, and he “legitimately believed” it, Kice said.
Using an alias, Villapando-Triste at some point surrendered Alexandra to Child Protective Services in Las Vegas, officials said. ICE and FBI agents received a tip that Alexandra might be there.
Later, Villapando-Triste still insisted he and Hernandez were the child’s parents.
Alexandra’s case was moved to Clark County Family Court, where, after a series of hearings and DNA tests, she was determined to be Garcia-Favila’s biological daughter.
Richard Curry, resident agent in charge of ICE’s office of investigations in Las Vegas, witnessed the reunion.
“Initially, there wasn’t much said. She was hugging that baby like there was no tomorrow,” Curry said.
He said Alexandra’s foster parents had dressed her in pink for the occasion. For them, he said, “it was a bittersweet moment. They have cared for this child for the past three months and watched her grow.”
Yet, Curry said, they were happy to see the baby reunited with her mother.
“The foster parents provided three suitcases containing diapers and clothing, as well as several strollers,” he said.
Kice said the mother and child were reunited because of “extraordinary investigative work and some lucky breaks.”
“All too often, these cases don’t have a happy ending,” she said.
The Mexican Consulate has assumed responsibility for Garcia-Favila and Alexandra. Jacome said the mother and baby were to remain in Las Vegas on Thursday night and would fly back to Juarez this weekend.
Hernandez was deported to Mexico last month, where she is expected to be formally charged with kidnapping, officials said.
Villapando-Triste, a prior deportee with an extensive criminal history, was taken into custody by ICE last month on felony immigration violations.
He pleaded not guilty and remains in custody awaiting an April 7 trial.
Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at email@example.com or (702) 383-0285.