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Mexican Girl Spends Two Days in Van Seiz

August 13, 2003

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ A 12-year-old Mexican girl who attempted to sneak into the United States inside the side panel of a van spent nearly two days in the vehicle after it was seized by U.S. immigration authorities at a border crossing.

Floriberta Jimenez Torres of the Mexican state of Oaxaca was discovered in the vehicle Monday morning by a worker at the federal storage facility where the van was stored. She spent 42 hours in the vehicle alone, without food or water on one of the summer’s hottest weekends, with temperatures in the 90s.

``It’s a miracle that she’s alive and well,″ said Alberto Lozano, spokesman for the Mexican consulate in San Diego.

The girl was put into the van on Saturday in Tijuana, Mexico, along with a Mexican woman who slipped into a compartment behind the van’s dashboard.

About an hour later, the vehicle was stopped as it crossed the San Ysidro Port of Entry and the woman was discovered. Authorities detained the woman and the vehicle’s driver, but neither of them alerted officials to Floriberta.

The girl freed herself from the compartment but remained in the vehicle. After being discovered, she was taken to a hospital and found to be in good health.

The girl initially told authorities she was 13, but a birth certificate shows she is 12, said Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

She told Mexican consulate officials she had remained quiet because she was scared and did not want to be discovered.

She was placed in protective custody and may be considered a victim in a smuggling case that is being prosecuted in San Diego, said Mack.

Michael Murphy, an American, was charged Tuesday in federal court with violating immigration laws. Prosecutors said he drove the van across the border with the two inside.

Murphy told authorities he agreed to drive across the border for $300 but said he did not know anyone was inside, according to the complaint filed in federal court.

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