Tumour boy snatched from drug city
A nine-year-old boy with a massive tumour has been whisked from a gang-infested neighbourhood in Mexico by US agents and taken across the border for treatment in New Mexico.
The boy and his parents were snatched from the gang-infested neighbourhood in Ciudad Juarez - one of the deadliest cities in the world - in an armoured vehicle after members of a New Mexico Baptist church saw him near an orphanage and sought help.
The parents of the child, identified only as Jose to protect his family, said the tumour on his shoulder and neck had grown so large that it affected his eyesight and could move into his heart.
With no money for medical care, the family sought treatment in Ciudad Juarez and El Paso, but did not receive any help removing the tumour, which has afflicted Jose since birth.
Si Budagher, pastor of First Baptist Church of Rio Rancho, New Mexico, said church members spotted the boy while doing missionary work and felt compelled to help. "He just came up to us and offered to carry groceries," Mr Budagher said. "The Lord put him in front of us."
Church members only recently resumed missionary work in the border city after suspending visits over the violence between competing drug cartels which has claimed thousands of lives.
Denise Gutierrez, a victim assistance co-ordinator for Homeland Security Investigations, said she felt compelled to help as soon as she saw photos of Jose. "I refused to believe that there was nothing we could do for this boy," she said.
Ms Gutierrez said the boy and his parents were granted a 45-day humanitarian visa for treatment in New Mexico, and a coalition of US agencies led by Homeland Security Investigations began working to get them into the United States. The US Border Patrol helped the family enter the United States.
Mr Budagher said the church had set up a fund for private donations and was helping with the cost of the family's stay in the US. The church is also seeking help from doctors to examine Jose. It is still unclear, however, what treatment is needed or if he will need to return for follow-up visits.
"We all trying to stay positive and believe that there is something we can do for this boy and his family," said Kevin Abar, assistant special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New Mexico.