U.S. immigration authorities said they are considering allowing three illegal immigrants whose children were recently slain in Baltimore to return to the United States after taking the children's bodies back to Mexico for burial.
The parents' immigration status, which came to light after they returned from work May 27 and found their three children slashed to death in their apartment, has added a further twist to a brutal crime.
According to Baltimore officials, Ricardo Espinoza and his wife, Noemi "Mimi" Quezada, the parents of two of the victims, and Quezada's niece Maria Andrea Espejo, mother of the third victim, want to bury the children in their home town of Tenenexpan in Mexico and then resume living in the United States. The Mexican government has offered to pay for transportation of the bodies and the parents.
But because all three parents have been in the United States illegally for more than a year, if they were to leave, U.S. law bars them from reentering the country for 10 years. Even if the parents were to forgo the trip to Mexico, they could still face deportation.
Officials of the Department of Homeland Security as well as the Mexican consulate in Washington and the city of Baltimore said they have been discussing avenues of enabling the parents to stay on humanitarian grounds.
"We want to make this process as painless as possible for the family," said Tony White, communications director of the Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods. "This family has already endured so much pain that you want them to be able to take care of their family business and bring some closure through the funeral."
It is also possible that police investigators, prosecutors and defense attorneys will want access to the parents as the case unfolds. Two relatives of Ricardo Espinoza -- brother Policarpio Espinoza, 22, and nephew Adan Espinoza Canela, 17 -- have been charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the killings and are being held without bail. The victims were Ricardo Espinoza, 9; his sister Lucero Quezada, 8; and their cousin Alexis Espejo, 10.
Ernestine Fobbs, spokeswoman for the arm of Homeland Security charged with carrying out deportations, said one possibility under consideration would be to "parole" the parents back into the United States for a designated period, such as the duration of an investigation or future trials.
It is a procedure used to allow in foreigners who do not qualify for traditional visas and does not constitute formal admission into the country. It remains unclear whether such a parole would give the parents -- who are currently employed in a relative's taco-sales business -- the right to work in the United States.
"The whole complexity of this will be looked into before [the parents] came back to the United States," Fobbs said.
In a related development, Espinoza Canela's attorney, James Rhodes, complained yesterday that police investigators took his client out of jail and interviewed him last Monday without an attorney present. Espinoza Canela had already been assigned an attorney from the public defender's office at that point.
"The fact that they did this tells me they have no intention of abiding by the rules," Rhodes said.
Rhodes added that he did not yet know what, if anything, his client said during the interview.
Matt Jablow, a Baltimore police spokesman, said he could not comment on the issue because a judge has ordered police and attorneys in the case not to comment publicly on it. That order came at the request of Policarpio Espinoza's attorney.