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October 24, 2013

CEPEDA: The wrong focus on Baby Hope

As the horrifying details emerged in the Baby Hope case, the 22-year-old mystery of the little girl found dead in a cooler on the side of a Manhattan highway, I felt like shouting, “This is not about unlawful immigrants.”

Baby Hope has now been identified as Anjelica Castillo, who was 4 years old when construction workers found her body on July 23, 1991. Detectives on the case then spent two decades trying to find her killer or her family — the girl had never been reported missing.

After an annual awareness drive sponsored by New York police, detectives found a woman who led them to the girl’s family. The family members, immigrants from Mexico and some of them living in the country illegally, helped police track down the victim’s cousin, who confessed to sexually abusing and murdering Anjelica and then dumping her body with the help of one of his sisters.

I was sure the Baby Hope case would be used by both the left and the right to “prove” their long-standing beliefs about immigration. Sure enough, news coverage and blogosphere chatter spread predictably. Some led with the immigration status of the child’s killer to reinforce the view that unauthorized immigrants are violent criminals, while others made the story the center of their umpteenth pitch for why local police should not cooperate with immigration officials.

The blog ThinkProgress.org point-blank said that the victim’s mother, Margarita Castillo, did not go to police for fear of deportation.

But ThinkProgress doesn’t know that. No one really knows what circumstances led an entire family to remain hushed about the mysterious disappearance of a young child.

When she went missing, the little girl was living with seven family members, none of whom ever came forward with details about her disappearance until the 22nd annual community outreach effort by the detectives who were still dogging the case.

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