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A Fatherly Instinct – How It and Hugo’s CBP Training Saved A Baby’s Life

A Fatherly Instinct – How It and Hugo’s CBP Training Saved A Baby’s Life
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Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Hugo Gonzalez, Imperial Beach Station, San Ysidro, Calif, discusses a defining moment on what started as a typical day.  He never imagined that he would end up saving a baby’s life.  “My purpose for that day, if not for my lifetime, was to make sure that baby made it back safe.”

Transcript

This was one of the most defining moments of my career. I had, uh... just become a father myself. It was just a fatherly instinct. I needed to find that baby. I needed to protect that baby. That's... that's why I did what I did. I was assigned as the processing supervisor ...for the day. (It was a midnight shift.) As I was getting ready to settle in, one of the agents who was processing aliens down on the floor called me down. One of our detainees had a question. I asked her if I could help her. She wanted to know when she could be reunited with her child. And I said, "What child?" "You know, my child. When we got arrested I had a baby." I looked around. I asked around. There were no babies in custody. And she assured me that she had her baby that night. So I tried questioning her. I took her into an interview room. Made her empty out her pockets. And I found a piece of paper with a phone number scribbled on it. And I told her not to lie. If she wanted us to help her, she had to help us. She finally admitted that it was the smuggler's phone number. I told him that I didn't care who he was, I didn't care what he was doing... All I wanted was that baby. We kept searching the area and we came up empty. We tried calling the number back several times and we tried calling the number back several times and the smuggler no longer was answering. So we went back to the station, feeling a little defeated. So I went and I told the lady that we were unable to locate her child. But then on a whim, I decided to pull her out of the cell, and and I told her to take a look at the male cell to see if she recognized any faces, if anybody looked familiar. She pointed at a gentleman. "That's him! That's him right there!" Happened to be the same guy we had just arrested over at the mini-mart. She was lunging at him. We had to separate them. She was screaming at the top of her lungs, "You had my baby! You had my baby! I know it's you!" And he was denying it. He said, "I've never seen this woman before in my life. She's crazy. I don't know what she's talking about." After a little bit more questioning, he finally admitted that yes -- he, in fact, had the baby. His story was: he was guiding the group, and he was helping her carry the baby through the desert, so that she wouldn't get tired. Well, when our agents converged on the group, everybody scattered in different directions. And so, he ran in one direction. The mother and the rest of the group, they ran all over the place. He was hiding behind some brush when the agents were looking in the area to gather up the illegal aliens in the area. The baby started crying. Well, he didn't want the baby's crying to give up his location. So he figured, the agents would hear the baby crying and he left the baby on the ground and he took off running. Well, when he put the baby on the ground, the baby stopped crying. They got all taken back to the station. The guide got away. The baby was left behind. I even asked the guide, I said, "If I take you out there, do you think you can tell me more-or-less where you were when you ran?" He said he would try. We searched and searched. We'd stop at a place, we'd get out, look around... He'd direct us to another area. We'd stop, look around... "No, this doesn't look familiar either." We'd do that a few times. I heard one of my partners get on the radio. I heard him call me on the radio and I could hear a baby crying in the background. And he said, "I found her." She was there, in the middle of the desert all night long. By then, it was gosh, 7 in the morning, 7:30 in the morning. She was covered in dirt, full of ant bites. Her diaper was saturated. But, other than that, she was crying, and whenever a baby cries, that's a good thing. Felt ecstatic. Felt relieved. I felt like I had a purpose. My purpose for that day -- if not for my lifetime – was to make sure that baby made it back safe. Nobody cared about her. The smuggler didn't care about her. The guide who left her there didn't care about her either. The state ended up charging the individual with child neglect and child abuse. He went to trial and was convicted and served time for his crime. The mother: she initially lied to us about the phone number trying to keep us from helping her. But who cared? I cared. And the men and women of the Border Patrol the ones that helped me search for the baby we cared when nobody else cared. I'm just one of many stories like this. I'm surrounded by unsung heroes every single day. We don't do it for the accolades. If accolades were my chief ambition, my actions would become meaningless. Retelling the story to my wife, I realized that that's one of the reasons I became a Border Patrol agent. Being at the right place at the right time, helping people, doing my job.
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