A beauty queen who serves as a goodwill ambassador from Mexico says U.S. agents pulled her aside at the border, lifted her dress and felt her belly, accusing her of coming to this country to have a baby so that the child could get citizenship.
Ana Beatriz de Santiago, a tall, slender 21-year-old from Ciudad Guzman, Mexico, said the harassment continued even after she showed agents her passport, visa and tiara.
“I was very embarrassed. I wanted to come to the United States to finish my title as queen with grace,” Santiago said Friday through an interpreter.
“I don’t know what to tell my parents. Being pregnant is a shameful thing in my town,” she said, adding that she is a virgin.
The head of the sponsoring group, Jay Lewis of the U.S.-Mexico Sister Cities International Association, said he and others will write to President Clinton and the Arizona congressional delegation to protest.
The association represents about 170 U.S. communities with sister cities in Mexico.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service’s district deputy director in San Diego said his office is taking the complaint seriously and will investigate.
But Bob Mandgie said he doesn’t think the agents did anything wrong, and he pointed out, as Santiago acknowledged, that she consented to the “patdown” search.
He said a patdown is not the normal procedure used to determine whether someone is pregnant, but Santiago, who was wearing a loose-fitting outfit, was tugging at her abdomen.
Santiago said she was detained for two hours at the Algodones, Baja California, crossing, just west of the Arizona-California state line. She was traveling with an uncle and a U.S. member of the association, Dean Baker.
The group was on its way to the association’s conference in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa, where she was to turn over her crown to the new queen.
Baker, 22, said agents “immediately jumped to the conclusion that we wanted to cross the border to get married.”
“They told me if I didn’t stop lying, Ana would be banned from the U.S. for five years, I would have my car confiscated and I would be taken to jail,” he said.
Santiago, crying softly, said the agents interrogated the two of them and accused her of trying to have an illegitimate child in the United States so the baby would be born a U.S. citizen.
“We’ve heard these horror stories in the past about what has happens at times, how they’re treated. But nothing has shook our organization like this has,” Lewis said. “This is our queen coming back to end her reign and then to be treated in such a cheap, dirty way.”
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