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Point of View: Deliveryman in hiding after elevator rescue

About four weeks ago, a Chinese food deliveryman reported to have been missing for four days was found alive and well inside a malfunctioning elevator at Tracey Towers in the Bronx.His disappearance had spawned big headlines in the local media, particularly the Chinese-language dailies, and sent shock waves through the city's Chinese community.It's a legitimate concern. Last year, an 18-year-old delivering Chinese food to an apartment in Rochdale Village was murdered by rogues who placed the order. A teen from Rosedale has been convicted of the killing and another suspect is facing murder charges.So the concerned residents in the Chinese community had every reason to suspect this guy might be a victim of a copycat case. In fact, two other Chinese food deliverymen were robbed and slain in Queens in separate incidents in southeast Queens in 1999 and 2000.Keep in mind, folks, that Queens is a bedroom community with more Chinese take-out eateries and high-rises with elevators than any other boroughs. Watch out, deliverymen!The recent dramatic discovery and rescue, unfortunately, bodes ill for this man named Chen Mingkuan, 35, of Fujien, China. A subsequent investigation by law enforcement authorities has exposed his true identity, thus turning a happy ending into a nightmare.Based on information from the investigation, Chen was sneaked into this country two years ago after having paid a snakehead or human-smuggler a whopping $60,000, the Sing Tao Daily of New York said. That figures amount to 496,200 in Chinese currency that will take average workers there 20 years to make.Chen works six days a week at a takeout diner, making about $300 plus tips. He has to send a large portion, if not all, of that money back home to support his wife and a 12-year-old son and, of course, to pay a huge debt he probably incurred for the overseas venture.However, the alleged revelation of his identity runs counter to an executive order Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued in September 2003 that bars city employees from disclosing any information about aliens.But the mayor said he was unaware that any city employees had anything to do with the revelation of Chen's background. Law enforcement authorities also denied their role in this regard. Who did it? Well, we will know it sooner or later.Worried that the immigration authorities are likely to dog him, Chen is reported to have gone into hiding. That may mean he is looking for a job elsewhere. He cannot afford to live without one.A couple of weeks ago, his pictures appeared conspicuously in all the Chinese-language newspapers. Yet three days later, he was reported to have sought the help of City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) to avoid possible deportation. As of this writing, I have not heard any news about his getting a positive response from the immigration services. Let's cross our fingers for him.Seeking a better life is human nature. That's why many people like Chen have ventured into this land of opportunity. I am kind of sympathetic to those who have made such a quest because they have left their loved ones behind. They have no way of knowing when they would get together again. It's a great sacrifice.It is the smugglers who are to blame for the growing number of these people in this and other countries.The greedy smugglers profit enormously by beating the system and ripping off poor souls like Chen. Therefore, our priority is to apprehend the offenders and bring them to justice. They are always on the move yet enjoying an envious lifestyle.Obviously, human smuggling is here to stay. But we can stem the tide. To do that requires a multifaceted approach. That's Uncle Sam's job.As to the search for Chen when he went missing, there were conflicting reports. Chen said he had pressed the emergency button repeatedly when he got stuck in the elevator. Besides, he said he talked to security personnel in the Towers a few times without avail because of language barrier. But the security guards said that they never saw his image on the security monitors. Who was telling the truth?But wait a minute. How could people living in Tracey Towers ignore the fact that one of their elevators had been out of service for four days? Where was the building manager?It seems that miscommunication was to blame. And it was costly. Law enforcement authorities had dispatched more than 100 cops with canines to conduct a blanket search with a chopper hovering over the Towers and other areas for a night before firefighters rescued him.

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