The mother of an undocumented 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy who was detained by US immigration agents after being rushed to a hospital in Texas says that she can only communicate with her child through FaceTime.
Felipa Delacruz broke down in tears while discussing her daughter’s case, saying that while she has encouraged her daughter to feel “at ease” in the San Antonio children’s shelter she’s being held in, being away from her daughter has been incredibly taxing.
“But, it’s been difficult. When I start to think about her, I start to get sad, and I start to become desperate,” Ms Delacruz said through an interpreter during a phone call with reporters. A fundraising page has been set up to help the family.
She said that the only contact she has been able to have with her daughter has been through FaceTime, since her daughter, RosaMaria Hernandez, is being held by a federal agency just over 150 miles away form her home in Laredo. Ms Delacruz is unable to travel to that city for fear of being stopped at an inland Border Patrol checkpoint.
RosaMaria was noticed by Border Patrol agents during an emergency transport between the Texas towns of Laredo and Corpus Christi, after doctors determined she needed emergency gall bladder surgery. Her ambulance was stopped at an inland border checkpoint, where agents determined she was in the country illegally before waving her through.
What followed was a nearly two-day affair in which Border Patrol agents posted up outside her hospital room, refusing to let the door be closed for privacy, citing flight risks for a 10-year-old girl who the family says has the mental capacity of a four or five year old.
Those Border Patrol agents indicated that the family could either sign a voluntary departure form that would immediately deport the child to Mexico — where she has not lived since her parents brought her to the US when she was three months old — or allow the child to be detained in federal facilities. After negotiations between federal agents and the family’s lawyer, she was eventually transferred to a federally overseen children’s shelter, where she is currently awaiting processing.
“I feel very strange. Sometimes I feel okay, and sometimes I just start crying. I’m always used to having my three girls with me, even when I was giving them [food] today, I’m not used to giving two people food,” Ms Delacruz told Priscilla Martinez, the Texas immigration coalition coordinator with the Worker’s Defense Action Fund, in a conversation that was emailed to The Independent.
“I’ve never let them be on their own,” she continued. “I’ve always been with them.”
The family’s attorney indicated that they were not given a timeline for how long it would take to process RosaMaria, but that they had asked that an expedited process be taken, which could still take weeks. Doctors indicated in her discharge documents that RosaMaria would be best cared for if she were in the custody of her family members who are aware of the specifics of her medical conditions.
President Donald Trump oversaw a 40 per cent increase in immigration arrests during the first half of this year, compared to arrests made last year. That includes a doubling of noncriminal immigrants in the United States, like RosaMaria, and many others who have been swept up in Immigrations and Customs Enforcement raids.
Texas Representative Joaquin Castro, a Democrat, said in the conference call said that RosaMaria’s case is emblematic of the Trump administration’s lack of criminal prioritization for immigration detention.
“t goes to show that they aren’t prioritizing criminals or people with national security threats, they’re going after children,” Mr Castro said. “This is a perfect example of the callous policies of the trump administration.”
Mr Castro also said that the case shows that immigration agencies in the US are breaking their own policies. Pointing toward ICE policy that restrict immigration enforcement at “sensitive locations” — which the ICE website says remains in effect — Mr Castro said that posting federal agents up outside of a hospital room is a clear indicator that immigration services are ignoring policy.
Border Patrol and ICE are different agencies, but both were ultimately involved with RosaMaria’s detention.
ICE has indicated that the agency is following immigration law and protocol. The Border Patrol has also said that their agents were abiding by the law and rules in place. RosaMaria is reportedly currently in the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, at a Department of Homeland Security operated facility.
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