SAN DIEGO - A Chicago-born man kidnapped as a toddler and taken to Mexico more than three decades ago was caught sneaking back across the border in California last week in hopes of being reunited with his mother, but has since gone missing in San Diego.
The mother said she has been waiting to hear from her son, David Amaya Barrick, 37, since learning on Oct. 31 that border agents had picked up her long-estranged child but released him after they discovered he was a US citizen trying to get home.
"I'm worried sick," Kathy Amaya, 60, told Reuters by telephone on Wednesday from her home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
"I was so close to having my son back and now he's gone again."
US Border Patrol officers worked to find Barrick a spot at a local homeless shelter, then identified a programme that might provide him a free bus ticket to Eau Claire and even drove him to the shelter, agency spokesman Paul Carr said.
But officials said Barrick never checked into either the Salvation Army facility or a second downtown shelter, and Amaya said she has since contacted the San Diego police department's missing-person's bureau to file a report on her son.
Barrick was rounded up with a group of illegal border crossers on Oct. 30 in a canyon about a mile from a San Diego beach, but he explained that he was US-born and thus a citizen, and border agents verified his story, Carr said.
They then contacted Amaya to let her know that her son had turned up and wanted to return to her.
"They told me he was beaten and robbed before he crossed the border and the thieves took his money and his cell (phone),"Amaya said. "They said he seemed like a really good guy, and that he only speaks Spanish and I don't."
Barrick was born in Chicago in 1977 while Amaya was married to his father, but she said her spouse became abusive and the couple split when the boy was a year old.
After some time had passed, Amaya said, she began letting the father visit the boy, and "then one day (the child) was just gone," she said.
"I reported his abduction, but when they found out he was with his dad, the police weren't worried about it."
Amaya said the boy's father told her that he had taken the toddler, then 2 years of age, to Mexico and left him there with family members.
Border Patrol officials said the agency has had no contact with the father.