U.S. Border Patrol officers waited as a 10-year-old girl in Texas with cerebral palsy underwent emergency surgery and then detained her, after first discovering she was an undocumented immigrant at a checkpoint on her way to the hospital, according to immigrant rights advocates and her family.
The child, Rosamaria Hernandez, was released from the hospital on Wednesday but can’t return home to her parents after her emergency gallbladder surgery, said Priscila Martinez of the Workers Defense Action Fund, who is in communication with the girl’s attorney and family. Instead, Hernandez was transferred from Corpus Christi to San Antonio and held by the government. She remained in custody as of late Wednesday afternoon.
Officials told Hernandez’s attorney that she will be processed as an unaccompanied minor in the same manner as children apprehended at the border without their parents, Martinez said. The girl has been in the U.S. since she was about 3 months old and lives with her mother in Laredo, Texas. Her mother is also undocumented, according to the Corpus Christi Caller Times.
The Customs and Border Protection agency confirmed that Border Patrol officers discovered Hernandez was undocumented when she and an adult cousin, who is a U.S. citizen, went through a checkpoint inside the U.S. while traveling from a hospital in Laredo to one in Corpus Christi.
Border agents then “escorted her and her cousin to a Corpus Christi hospital where she could receive appropriate medical care,” the agency said in a statement.
“The Laredo Sector Border Patrol is committed to enforcing the immigration laws of this nation. … Per the immigration laws of the United States, once medically cleared she will be processed accordingly,” the agency said.
Hernandez’s attorney, Alex Galvez, told KRIS-6 News in Corpus Christi that he and the girl’s family had received assurances that she “will not be deported.” As of late Wednesday afternoon, she had not been released.
President Donald Trump and his administration have said their focus in immigration enforcement is on deporting criminals and protecting the border. But Border Patrol officers also have made arrest of people not being targeted. In June, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement ― which is separate from Customs and Border Protection ― said that all undocumented immigrants “should look over your shoulder, and … need to be worried.”
Both Customs and Border Protection and ICE have ”sensitive locations″ policies that instruct agents and officers to avoid conducting arrests or other enforcement at medical facilities, schools, places of worship and rallies.
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) challenged Trump and acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke “to show that this enforcement operation is prioritizing a dangerous criminal.”
“A small child who just had surgery is not a threat to Texans’ safety or our national security,” he said in a statement. The government “should focus its resources elsewhere,” he added.