A 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy has been detained by federal immigration
authorities in Texas after she passed through a Border Patrol checkpoint
on her way to a hospital to undergo emergency gall bladder surgery.
The girl, Rosamaria Hernandez, who was brought over the border illegally
to live in Laredo, Tex., when she was three months old, was being transferred
from a medical center in Laredo to a hospital in Corpus Christi around
2 a.m. on Tuesday when Border Patrol agents stopped the ambulance she
was riding in, her family said. The agents allowed her to continue to
Driscoll Children’s Hospital, the family said, but followed the
ambulance the rest of the way there, then waited outside her room until
she was released from the hospital.
By Wednesday evening, according to family members and advocates involved
in her case, immigration agents had taken her to a facility in San Antonio
where migrant children who arrive alone in the United States from Central
America are usually held, even though her parents, who both lack legal
status, live 150 miles away in Laredo.
Her placement there highlighted the unusual circumstances of her case:
The federal government maintains detention centers for adult immigrants
it plans to deport, facilities for families who arrive at the border together
and shelters for children who come by themselves, known as unaccompanied
minors. But it is rare, if not unheard-of, for a child already living
in the United States to be arrested — particularly one with a serious
Immigration agents have, however,
detained some teenagers who are suspected of membership in gangs like MS-13, a gang rooted in
Los Angeles and El Salvador that President Trump and Attorney General
Jeff Sessions have repeatedly condemned. As a general matter, the Trump
hardened immigration enforcement across the country, lifting guidelines established under President Barack Obama that made
it unlikely that any unauthorized immigrants other than recent arrivals
to the country and those with serious criminal records would be deported.
Between Mr. Trump’s inauguration and early September, the number
of immigration arrests rose more than 40 percent compared with the same
period last year, according to data released by Immigration and Customs
Rosamaria’s cousin, Aurora Cantu, a United States citizen who was
riding with her in the ambulance and accompanied her to the hospital,
told Rosamaria’s mother and others working on the case that the
agents had at first tried to persuade the family to agree to have the
girl transferred to a Mexican hospital, pressing the family to sign a
voluntary departure form for her. They declined to do so. The entire time
Rosamaria was in surgery and then in recovery, several armed Border Patrol
agents stood outside her hospital room, the family said.
Her mother, Felipa de la Cruz, 39, said in an interview that her family
had moved to Texas from Nuevo Laredo, the city in Mexico just across the
border from Laredo, when her daughter was still an infant, hoping to get
better treatment for her cerebral palsy.
They had not been able to afford her therapies in Mexico, she said, but
in Texas, Medicaid paid for her daughter’s treatment, which included
home visits from therapists.
“I’m a mother. All I wanted was for her to get the surgery
that she needed,” Ms. de la Cruz said. “It never crossed my
mind that any of what is happening right now could happen. When you’re
a mother, all you care about is your child.”
Rosamaria’s doctors have recommended that she be released to a relative
because of her illness, said Alma Ruiz, a San Antonio-based lawyer who
is part of a team representing the family. But the immigration agency
has not yet consented to release her.
Representative Henry Cuellar, a Democrat who represents the Laredo area
in Congress, called on Wednesday for the girl to be released back to her family.
“I understand that C.B.P. has a tremendous duty to protect our nation,”
he said in a statement, referring to Customs and Border Protection, “but
we should be devoting our resources and focus on bigger threats.”
A spokesman for the agency, which oversees the Border Patrol, did not immediately
respond to a request for comment on Wednesday night.
“The fact that they spent so much time and resources to follow this
girl, to treat her like she was the highest-priority criminal that ever
walked on this earth — the way they’re treating her is just
beyond what a 10-year-old special needs child should be treated,”
said Priscila Martinez, an immigration activist at the Workers Defense
Action Fund, which is helping to plan rallies for Rosamaria in Laredo
and Corpus Christi.
Rosamaria’s case is perhaps the most extreme example in recent memory of a
dilemma that stalks unauthorized immigrants who live in the Rio Grande Valley,
south of the Border Patrol checkpoints: Getting specialized medical care
often requires going to doctors and hospitals farther north, but crossing
the checkpoints could mean detention and deportation.
That, Ms. Martinez said, is why Rosamaria’s parents were absent from
her side when she was rushed north to Corpus Christi, leaving her cousin,
Ms. Cantu, to accompany her to the hospital.
Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/25/us/girl-cerebral-palsy-detained-immigration.html
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