JuÁrez girls found after one calls home

Diana Washington Valdez
El Paso Times

Two missing JuÁrez girls were found safe after U.S. agents and Georgia
police conducted a raid on a home in the Canton, Ga., area where the
adolescents were staying, Mexican officials said Friday.

Patricia “Nataly” Avila Montoya, 12, and Georgina G. Ramos Villa, 14,
were lured from their preparatory school in Palomas, Chihuahua, and
transported across the U.S. border illegally, said Maricela Quijano, a
Mexican consul official in Atlanta. Palomas is across the border from
Columbus, N.M.

“As far as we could tell the girls were all right, but we don’t know yet
how they ended up in this state,” Quijano said. “Two Mexican adult males
who were at the house with them were arrested. We don’t know much more
beyond that at this time.

” Quijano said authorities are investigating how the girls were
transported to several states before ending up in Georgia. “We suspect
they may have been lured with promises of a job. We don’t know. The men
with them were not relatives.

” El Paso FBI Special Agent Andrea Simmons said the El Paso office
contacted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which
helped provide the money for the 12-year-old’s mother to make the trip to
pick up her daughter in Georgia.

“It’s my understanding that the girls were runaways, and that it was
Nataly who contacted her family to say she wanted to get back home,”
Simmons said. “Reportedly, the smugglers wanted money for her release
because they wanted to recover what they had spent on bringing her here.
(The girls) were in Georgia, and were about to go to Florida when they
were recovered.

” FBI officials said the older girl had a crush on one of two men, and
the younger girl ! had decided to tag along until she got homesick.

Avila’s father, Jorge E. Avila Perez, filed a missing persons report for
his daughter May 19 after receiving a call for help. She told him then
that she was in Albuquerque, according to a prepared statement by the
Mexican consul’s office in El Paso.

Nataly Avila called her mother next and told her she was in Florida or on
her way there, and that she and Ramos allegedly were taken against their
will.

U.S. officials and Georgia authorities working together recovered the
girls. Georgia police arrested the two adult males.

“The local U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection helped to provide
a temporary visa for one of the mothers to pick up her daughter in
Georgia,” said Leticia Zamarripa, a spokeswoman for the agency in El Paso.

Avila returned Tuesday to her family home in JuÁrez. Ramos is in a foster
home in Georgia awaiting her family’s arrival, Quijano said.

Border Patrol officials have said that each year, thousands of
undocumented immigrants who are minors cross the border or are brought
across the U.S. border.

Copyright © 2001 El Paso Times.

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