Border Agents Detain 10-Year-Old After Emergency Surgery
U.S. Border Patrol agents this week detained a 10-year-old girl in San Antonio, 150 miles from her home in Laredo, Texas, after she was discharged from a hospital for emergency gallbladder surgery.
In a move that’s unusual even amid harsher rhetoric and enforcement around immigration, agents at a Border Patrol checkpoint stopped an ambulance carrying Rosamaria Hernandez from a hospital in Laredo to one in Corpus Christi. After the stop around 2 a.m. Tuesday, agents allowed the ambulance to continue to Driscoll Children’s Hospital but followed it to that destination two hours’ drive away, then waited through the child’s surgery and outside the recovery room until her release.
The Border Patrol has confirmed the sequence of events.
Rosamaria was 3 months old when her parents – neither of whom are U.S. citizens—brought her from Mexico in part because they could not afford the treatment she needed for cerebral palsy, relatives told The New York Times. Medicaid has paid for her care in Texas.
During the checkpoint stop, Border Patrol agents reportedly tried to get Rosamaria’s parents to transfer her to a hospital in Mexico, but they refused to sign a voluntary departure form. After the Corpus Christi hospital discharged the girl, the Border Patrol drove her another two hours north to San Antonio and, along with the Office of Refugee Resettlement, placed her in a detention facility that usually holds young Central American immigrants who travel to the U.S. without their parents.
A lawyer representing Rosamaria’s family says doctors have recommended that the Border Patrol release her to the care of relatives who have legal status to live in this country. A cousin who rode with her in the ambulance is a U.S. citizen and was able to clear the checkpoint. As of this afternoon, Rosamaria remains in custody, separated from her parents, who were not with her on the way to the hospital.
Democratic U.S. Reps. Joaquin Castro and Henry Cuellar of Texas today urged immigration authorities to remove the child from detention. Castro called the situation unacceptable.
In a statement, the Border Patrol defended its agents’ actions, noting that they ensured she received proper medical care. The agency also indicated that once Rosamaria is “medically cleared, she will be processed accordingly.” That processing could lead to her deportation, a family lawyer says. So far, there’s no indication how long authorities might detain the girl.
If the federal Department of Health and Human Services does approve a sponsor for Rosamaria, she will still be subject to processing and possible deportation.
The child’s family has begun a crowdfunding campaign to relocate from its one-bedroom apartment, in case a site visit determines that the dwelling is insufficient for Rosamaria’s needs. Six members of the family, including Rosamaria, have lived in the apartment for about three years, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reports.WAIT, BEFORE YOU GO…
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