Immigration enforcement agents detained a 10-year-old undocumented girl with cerebral palsy at a hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas, on Wednesday after waiting outside her recovery room for hours until she was discharged from surgery.
The girl was stopped with her cousin, a legal permanent resident, at a border patrol checkpoint on the way from their home in Laredo, Texas to the hospital in Corpus Christi. Border Patrol agents flagged her as undocumented and followed her to the hospital.
The girl, Rosa Maria Hernandez, had been brought by her parents from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, to Laredo when she was a few months old. On Tuesday, she went in for gall bladder surgery.
Despite the doctor’s orders to release her to her family after the surgery, ICE officials took her to an Office of Refugee Resettlement shelter facility on Wednesday, where she is being detained indefinitely.
“This is so painful for me knowing that my daughter is there and I can’t help her,” the girl’s mother, Felipa De La Cruz, said Thursday from her home in Laredo.
Rosa Maria’s parents brought her to the U.S. in hopes of finding better medical care for her, De La Cruz said. According to the family’s lawyer, Rosa Maria has a severe developmental delay.
Her grandfather and cousin, both legal permanent residents, asked that she be released to them as her sponsors, but officials insisted on keeping her detained Wednesday.
Congressman Joaquin Castro, a Texas Democrat, said this arrest is another example of the impact of Trump’s ramped-up enforcement approach.
“It’s stunning that federal agents would be waiting outside the room,” Castro said. “They’re treating her like a hardened convict. It goes to show they are not prioritizing criminals; they are going after children.”
Since 2011, immigration officials have considered hospitals “sensitive locations” and avoided making arrests at them when possible.
Under President Trump, the Department of Homeland Security eliminated a tiered system put in place by the Obama administration to prioritize arresting criminals for immigration enforcement, making everyone who’s undocumented, including people like Rosa Maria, a target. From October 2016 to June 2017, immigration arrests increased by nearly 50 percent, and non-criminals make up a growing number of arrests, according to ICE data.
“No population is off the table,” acting ICE Director Tom Homan said at a hearing on Capitol Hill in June.