A ten-year-old immigrant girl with cerebral palsy treated for gallbladder surgery at a hospital in Texas may be deported to Mexico after she recovers, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported.
— DreamActivist (@DreamAct) October 25, 2017
Rosa Maria Hernandez — an undocumented child from Laredo living in the United States since she was three months old — was transported by ambulance to Driscoll Children’s Hospital to receive gallbladder surgery on Tuesday.
Her U.S. citizen cousin, Aurora Cantu accompanied her on the ambulance ride, but border agents stopped the vehicle along an interior immigration checkpoint near Freer on US-59 as it headed to Corpus Christi. Border agents allowed the ambulance to continue but also followed them roughly 150 miles to the hospital, the San Antonio Express-News reported.
“Due to the juvenile’s medical condition, Border Patrol agents escorted her and her cousin to a Corpus Christi hospital where she could receive appropriate medical care,” according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency statement made available to the Express-News. “Per the immigration laws of the United States, once medically cleared she will be processed accordingly.”
“They told me that my aunt [Rosa Maria’s mother] had two options,” Cantu told the publication. “The first option was we could take her back to Mexico and arrange for a family member to get her. If my aunt didn’t want to do that, the second option was that she could spend several weeks in a detention center.”
Rosa Maria underwent surgery on Tuesday and was medically cleared as of Wednesday morning. Felipa de la Cruz, her 39-year-old undocumented mother who’s based in Laredo, said Rosa Maria would not be able to receive the same medical care if she is deported. De la Cruz told the Caller-Times that federal agents were stationed outside her daughter’s hospital room.
CBP spokesperson Rod Kise confirmed to the Caller-Times that Border Patrol agents “escorted” Rosa Maria to the hospital where she received “appropriate medical care.”
“Per the immigration laws of the United States, once medically cleared she will be processed accordingly,” Kise added. “The Mexican Consulate has been advised of the situation by Laredo Sector Border Patrol.”
If the government detains Rosa Maria, there’s a chance she won’t be held for more than than 21 days, the maximum number of days that some immigrant children can be held at family detention centers before being released to U.S. sponsors. Because her mother is undocumented, it may be difficult for Rosa Maria to find a sponsor. Former-Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly previously ordered federal agents to consider deporting undocumented family members who come forward to claim their children in government custody, as the Express News pointed out.
With the exception of extraordinary circumstances, the Department of Homeland Security — the parent organization that oversees operations at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency — has long asked its agents to adopt a “sensitive locations” policy which discourages arrests at “sensitive” places like hospitals, churches, and schools. This is meant to prevent disruptions to the daily routines at these locations.
But border agents are increasing stepping up their enforcement in these places. One woman with a brain tumor, who hemorrhaged and collapsed inside an immigration detention center, was treated at a Fort Worth-area hospital. After her surgery, she was placed back in a detention center. She has since been released on bail.
Federal immigration agents have also stopped other undocumented families from getting to Driscoll Children’s Hospital. In May, Oscar and Irma Sanchez encountered border agents when they passed an interior checkpoint to get their sick son to Driscoll. Border agents accompanied them to the hospital. The following morning, both parents were taken to a Border Patrol station to be fingerprinted and booked. And in June, the government barred Wendy Armendariz, an undocumented mother living in Texas, from accompanying her U.S.-citizen son born with a severe case of Spina Bifida to travel to Driscoll from Brownsville.
UPDATE: On Wednesday, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency transferred Rosa Maria to a San Antonio children’s shelter that contracts with the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.
Her lawyer, Leticia Gonzalez, told the San Antonio Express-News that the child still needs follow-up medical care and will not be released to her family.
“They’re refusing to allow this cerebral palsy child to be released to her family,” Gonzalez said. “They are insisting on taking her into the children’s home, which is a quasi detention center.”
CORRECTION: Rosa Maria’s name was previously spelled Rosamaria. The piece has been changed to reflect that update.