Federal immigration officials have illegally detained an undocumented 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy in Texas for the past seven days, hours away from her parents, a lawsuit filed Tuesday against the Trump administration alleges.
Border patrol agents physically removed the girl, Rosa Maria Hernandez, from her hospital bed as she recovered from gallbladder surgery one week ago, according to court filings. The agency had flagged her as undocumented when her ambulance passed through a federal checkpoint on the way to the hospital. The officers then followed her ambulance from the checkpoint to the hospital and waited for her to have the surgery before taking her into federal custody, as the video below shows.
The lawsuit, filed by ACLU against Customs and Border Protection and the Office of Refugee Resettlement in federal court, claims the girl’s detention is unlawful. The Office of Refugee Resettlement is processing Hernandez as an unaccompanied minor — which requires inspecting her home — even though she has lived in Texas with her family since she was three months old.
“I’ve never seen a case as outrageous as this one, and I’ve been doing this a long time,” said Michael Tan, an attorney with the ACLU. “The idea that her parents would be forced to apply to get their child back is ridiculous. They shouldn’t have to do this. She’s their child. She should be returned to her family.”
Customs and Border Protection said they detained Hernandez “for the welfare of the child” because she wasn’t with a parent or legal guardian. Her 34-year-old cousin accompanied her to the hospital. While the agency has a policy against immigration enforcement at hospitals, detaining Hernandez did not violate that because the enforcement happened at the checkpoint, according to spokesperson Roger Pauza.
“The actions taken were in accordance with the law and carried out as humanely as possible,” Pauza said in a statement.
Hernandez’s mother, Felipa De La Cruz, hasn’t been able to visit her daughter since she was detained. De La Cruz is undocumented and unable to safely pass through the checkpoint between her house in Laredo and the shelter in San Antonio, more than 150 miles away. Hernandez’s father is undocumented as well, but he can pass through the checkpoint to visit her because he’s already involved in deportation proceedings.
“When I think about her I start to become desperate,” De La Cruz said last week. “She needs me the most.”
Aside from recovering from gallbladder surgery, Hernandez has cerebral palsy and a developmental delay that requires constant care. Despite her family’s best efforts to comfort her with her favorite foods, she has been withdrawn during visits with family, according to Priscilla Martinez, Texas Immigration Coalition Coordinator for the Workers Defense Action Fund, who is in close contact with the family.
“Defendants’ forcible separation of [Hernandez] from her family … has inflicted serious psychological and emotional injury on her, Ms. De La Cruz, and her entire family — as would the sudden and forcible removal of any young child from a stable and loving family environment,” the lawsuit reads.
Hernandez is scheduled to have a follow-up appointment with her physician in Laredo on Nov. 2. Her parents are hopeful that she will be released to them by then.
Cover image: Rosa Maria Hernandez, 10, at a hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas with her cousin. (Photo courtesy of Leticia Gonzalez)