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After 16 years living on life support in a nursing facility in California, a man in his mid-30s has finally been identified by his family.
Up till now, the patient has only been known as “Garage 66.”
He is named after the repair shop where a van he was traveling in was taken to after it crashed in 1999. The van, which had traveled from Mexico to the U.S., crashed while it was trying to evade U.S. Border Patrol and caused the severe brain damage Garage 66 lives with today.
The San Diego-based Border Angels, an immigrant rights group, helped identify the man and worked with other agencies to locate his family in Mexico.
"A volunteer of ours had been going to the facility and holding his hand. She came to me and asked if I could help find his family," Border Angels director Enrique Morones told Fox News Latino.
The Mexican consulate in San Diego told EFE news Friday that the man's identity was confirmed as a result of a DNA test, and that the family has requested his name not be revealed.
He has not yet reunited with his family.
Garage 66, or simply Garage, as he is called at the Villa Coronado Skilled Nursing Facility, is unable to speak or move and is being kept alive with breathing and feeding tubes.
His care, about $700 a day, is covered by Medi-Cal, the program that administers Medicaid in California, which allows Jane and John Does to qualify for care when they are comatose or in some other way incapacitated.
Ed Kirkpatrick, the director of long-term care at Villa Coronado, told NBC7 that his team is very compassionate with Garage. “We have a birthday that we use. He has a birthday party every year,” he said.
Morones, from Border Angels, worked with representatives from the Border Patrol agents’ union, state senator Ben Hueso’s office, state representative Juan Vargas’ office, the University of California, San Diego and the Mexican consulate.
Morones said he traveled to Washington, D.C., and spoke with the head of Border Patrol.
"I knew it would give a lot of people a lot of hope," Morones said about finding Garage 66’s family.
Most people in similar circumstances are never identified, and there are thousands of cases of immigrant families looking for relatives who they lost touch with after they crossed the border into the U.S.
"This is only going to be the beginning. This was an exceptional case," Morones told FNL.
Although Morones' team is keeping private the details of the man's name and family and their location in Mexico, he credits the reunification to teamwork and cross-border collaboration.