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Missing Deaf Woman Reunited With Husband

May 16, 1986

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. (AP) _ A deaf Mexican woman who was separated from her longtime companion and wandered alone in the Los Angeles area for days, barely able to communicate, wept when they were reunited.

″I was thinking that I might never see her again,″ Jose Herrera said after he was reunited Thursday with Maria Arevalos, who can speak only a few Spanish words and knows ittle sign language.

The woman’s ordeal began May 1, when two U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service agents going through an Amtrak train on a check for illegal immigrants questioned them at Oceanside.

Herrera said he tried to explain that Ms. Arevalos is deaf and can hardly communicate, but was ignored by agents. He said she was taken off the train, and he thought the INS would take her to the border at Tijuana.

Ms. Arevalos, 34, was taken to the INS San Clemente facility, but agents could not prove she was in the country illegally, so she was put on a Los Angeles-bound bus.

Herrera, 48, a Fresno farmworker, searched for her in Fresno, Los Angeles and Tijuana. Finally, he contacted the National Center for Immigrants’ Rights Inc. and told his story to Los Angeles newspapers Wednesday.

Workers at the Dayle McIntosh Center for the Disabled saw her picture in Thursday’s Los Angeles Times and contacted the newspaper. The couple was reunited a few hours later.

″Her face lit up, she smiled, she started crying,″ said Jane Sabala of the center. ″She covered her face with her hands and just sort of shook her head to say, ’I can’t believe this.‴

Ms. Arevalos had been found by a Costa Mesa police officer May 6 and taken to the center two days later.

Communications director Lisa Marion said Ms. Arevalos indicated through crude sign language that she had been on a train and a bus, and that she had been walking for several days before police found her.

She also indicated that she had been sleeping in parks.

Herrera has a green card work permit and is in the United States legally. He earlier told reporters that Ms. Arevalos had entered the country illegally.

Peter Schey, executive director of the immigrant rights center, said the center will try ″to regularize her status, get her a green card so she will be a permanent resident. We will fight to keep her in this country.″

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