Deliveryman Rescue Raises Immigration Issues

NEW YORK — A deliveryman who captured front page headlines this week by being trapped in a broken elevator for more than three days has drawn further scrutiny, this time over his immigration status.

It was widely reported that Ming Kuang Chen — who first caused a stir by vanishing while delivering Chinese food to a high-rise apartment building in the Bronx — entered the country illegally from his native China. Under city rules, police can seek residency information about a victim for investigative purposes, but not disclose it to anyone else.

“As far as I know, we did not give out the immigration status,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters on Wednesday when asked about Chen. “It would be in direct violation of the executive order I signed.”

The mayor blamed the reports on unauthorized leaks.

“Unfortunately, as you well know, sometimes people just for a variety of selfish reasons … try to leak information and it’s unconscionable,” he said. “His immigration status had nothing to do with it whatsoever and should not have been divulged, clearly.”

Chen, 35, became the subject of a widespread search after he failed to return to his Chinese restaurant Friday night with $200 in receipts, prompting speculation that he was the victim of a fatal mugging.

But at about 5 a.m. Tuesday, firefighters responding to an emergency call pulled Chen out of a stalled elevator at the apartment complex. He said he had been stuck there for 80 hours without food or water.

Chen, a native of China who speaks little English, claimed he had repeatedly cried out and pushed an alarm button in the elevator. But both police, who conducted a door-to-door canvass of the building over the weekend, and private security there insisted they saw no sign of him.

Chen appeared briefly at a new conference on Tuesday after being released from a hospital where he was treated for dehydration.

Officials offered no information on his whereabouts on Wednesday.

A spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Marc A. Raimondi, said the publicity had made the agency aware of Chen. But he suggested his case was not a priority.

“Getting locked in an elevator for three days doesn’t make you immune to removal proceedings,” Raimondi. “That said, we prioritize our investigative efforts to target those illegal aliens who pose the greatest threat to public safety and homeland security.”

© 2005 by WNBC.com The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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