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Posted: October 26, 2017

10-year-old immigrant with cerebral palsy detained after emergency surgery now with her family


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By Theresa Seiger, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

SAN ANTONIO —

UPDATE Nov. 3: The Associated Press reported Friday that the ACLU has said authorities released the 10-year-old girl to family. 

Original story, Oct. 26:

A 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy who came to the United States from Mexico illegally when she was an infant was detained by Border Patrol agents after undergoing emergency gall bladder surgery in Texas, according to multiple reports.

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Leticia Gonzalez, an attorney for Rosa Maria Hernandez, told The Associated Press that the girl has “difficulty understanding exactly what’s taking place” and is closer in development to a child who’s 4 or 5 years old.

Rosa Maria was intercepted Tuesday morning by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents while she and her cousin, a U.S. citizen, were being taken by ambulance from Laredo to Corpus Christi, according to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Rosa Maria was traveling to get emergency surgery and, on the way, she passed through an immigration checkpoint in Freer, the newspaper reported.

Family members told the San Antonio Express-News that Border Patrol agents told them Tuesday that Rosa Maria had to either go back to Mexico or face a lengthy detention process. 

Family members declined to take her to Mexico and authorities transferred her to a children’s shelter 150 miles away in San Antonio on Wednesday, according to the Express-News.

Gonzalez told the Caller-Times that she asked authorities to release Rosa Maria to family members who are U.S. citizens, but that they refused. She said doctors suggested in hospital discharge papers that Rosa Maria be released to family members post-surgery.

"At this point, our argument to (immigration officials) is there is a doctor's directive, why aren't you following it?" Gonzalez told the Caller-Times.

Rosa Maria’s mother, Felipa Delacruz, told the newspaper that federal agents waited outside her daughter’s hospital room while she was recovering. Delacruz does not have legal immigration status and is in Laredo, the Caller-Times reported.

In a statement released to The Associated Press, Customs and Border Protection officials stood by their decision to detain Rosa Maria, saying that agents were “committed to enforcing the immigration laws of this nation.”

“Once medically cleared, she will be processed accordingly,” the statement said.

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, blamed the Trump administration for adopting “callous policies” toward immigrants.

“They’re treating her like a hardened convict,” Castro said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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