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EDITORIAL: Detainment of disabled child by Border Patrol should 'shock us' all

Monitor - 10/27/2017

The detainment by U.S. Border Patrol agents of a 10-year-old disabled girl, who is in this country illegally, from her Corpus Christi hospital room following emergency surgery this week, is an unconscionable and short-sighted act.

The child, who has cerebral palsy and developmental delays that put her on mental par with a 4-year-old, is now facing deportation and is left to recover from surgery in a federal facility without her parents. It brings to light a bigger threat to all immigrant families who might try to cross a checkpoint seeking medical help in the future, U.S. Rep. JoaquĆ­n Castro, D-San Antonio, told us.

That federal agents would take the child from her family and send her to a federal facility for unaccompanied minors who come to this country illegally, directly conflicts with orders from her physician. Her doctor wrote in hospital discharge papers this week that the girl should be released to her family's care, the family's lawyer said Thursday.

The girl, Rosa Maria Hernandez, has never been away from her family before, her mother said on a national press call on Thursday morning that was facilitated by the ACLU. The mother, Felipa De La Cruz, who lives in Laredo and is undocumented, said her daughter does not understand what is happening and she told her mother she wants to go home.

"She told me she misses me," De La Cruz said in Spanish, her voice breaking. Her lawyer, Leticia Gonzalez, also said the family fears the child will be deported.

"It's difficult when I start to think about her I start to get sad and I start to become desperate," the mother said.

The entire situation should make us all desperate and it should make us all examine our priorities.

Because the detainment of a post-surgical disabled child is simply wrong and it should shame this administration and anyone who believes that this child could be a threat to our society and should be deported right now.

She in no way fits the federal guidelines for priority deportees, which according to the Trump Administration focus on criminals and repeat offenders.

Her lawyer said federal authorities on Monday followed her ambulance after it crossed a checkpoint in South Texas en route from Laredo to the Corpus Christi hospital where the child underwent emergency gall bladder surgery earlier this week.

After the surgery, federal agents staked out her room and when she was well enough to be discharged they took charge of her.

We agree with Astrid Dominguez of the ACLU who declared: "That this administration and Border Patrol would go after a child like Rosa Maria is unconscionable. Rosa Maria should not stay one more day away from her parents, which are the best to take care of her. ... That Border Patrol would station guards outside the hospital door of a 10-year-old should shock us all."

Unfortunately this is not the first incident of a South Texas family targeted for deportation after taking their child to a hospital north of the checkpoints.

In September, a father and mother who were in the United States illegally, were followed by Border Patrol to the same Corpus Christi hospital when their newborn child needed surgery.

This sets forth a disturbing pattern that could deter people from the border region seeking the medical care they need if it involves crossing a checkpoint. That should be deemed inhumane by everyone, regardless of the person's immigration status. In the case of children, it is especially egregious.

As Rep. Castro told us: "It is a real concern that Rosa Maria's story may discourage folks from seeking lifesaving medical care they need. The Trump Administration's policies have given people an impossible choice, either to forgo treatment or risk deportation. CBP and ICE should exercise discretion and target dangerous criminals, not individuals seeking medical help."

Indeed, flexibility and discretion in sensitive cases, like this, should be the protocol.

As the ACLU's Dominguez said: "American values demand that children and their parents be allowed to travel for medical attention without fear of deportation."

We call upon President Donald Trump and his administration to set this right and to reunite this girl with her family.

According to their lawyer, Rosa Maria's parents are in Laredo and both are undocumented. They sent their daughter to Corpus Christi with a family member who is legally in this country, because they feared deportation if they tried to cross the checkpoint. They wanted to save their child - who was brought to this country illegally in 2007 as a newborn - and they did what any parent would do. The child should not suffer as a result.

Now the girl is under the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, being held in an undisclosed shelter in San Antonio "treating her like a hardened convict," Castro told the Associated Press.

Surely that is not right.

 
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