Agents of the U.S. Border Patrol have taken a frail 10-year-old girl, who suffers from cerebral palsy, into custody shortly after she underwent emergency surgery on her gallbladder, and now her family is locked in a major legal battle, as attorneys fight for the child’s return.
The event unfolded when 10-year-old Rosa Maria Hernandez was rushed to a Texas hospital for emergency surgery last Wednesday, according to the New York Times. When the ambulance carrying the child passed through a Border Patrol checkpoint, agents reportedly followed it to the hospital where they waited until doctors completed the procedure. A short time after Rosa Maria was taken into the recovery room, immigration agents took her into custody and transported the child to a detention center for unaccompanied minors, located in San Antonio, Texas, more than 150 miles away from her family.
Rosa Maria has lived in the United States since she was an infant, however, she and her parents do not have legal citizenship status. It is for this reason that authorities took the child so far away from her family.
Under federal guidelines, the U.S. has distinct classifications for people who are in custody, which includes those who are awaiting deportation, others arriving as families, and children who cross the border unaccompanied. Each of these classifications has its own detention facility and since Rosa Maria’s parents do not have a legal presence, current rules dictate that she be treated as unaccompanied in spite of the fact that both of her parents are in Laredo, Texas.
To further complicate matters, Rosa Maria’s medical condition requires special attention and treatment that her family fears cannot be provided for her in the detention facility. Doctors have also recommended that she be released into the custody of her parents due to the special circumstances of her having cerebral palsy.
So far, immigration officials have turned deaf ears to the pleas of Rosa Maria’s family as well as recommendations from medical professionals. Perhaps the saddest part is the fact that the child’s citizenship status also makes her eligible for deportation under the Trump administration’s directive to roll back the DACA program instated by Barack Obama.
Tom Jawetz, Vice President of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress pointed at the case of Rosa Maria Hernandez as an example of the disparagement caused by the White House’s plans to scrap DACA.
“Hospitals used to be sensitive locations, off-limits to routine deportation efforts. No more,” Jawetz noted, referring to how immigration agents reportedly attempted to surreptitiously evict the 10-year-old girl from American soil by having her family sign voluntary departure papers.
Even without the consent of her family, Rosa Maria can still be deported and transferred to a Mexican medical facility. Her parents would then have no choice but to accompany their daughter to the other side of the border, leaving them with little or no chance to legally return to the U.S.
However, there may still be hope for the plight of Rosa Maria and her family. Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas, along with other legislators have spoken out on behalf of Rosa Maria.
“They are treating her like a hardened convict… [The Department of Homeland Security] claims to be prioritizing its apprehensions, but Rosa Maria is not a threat to anyone’s safety. We ask that she be released to her family.”
The website DreamActivist.com is now circulating a petition for Rosa Maria’s release back to her family. There have also been calls for President Donald Trump to intervene for the girl’s release on social media, with Twitter campaigns under #FreeRosa and #RosaMariaHernandez.
[Featured Image by John Moore/Getty Images]