Parenting

10-Year-Old Disabled Girl Nabbed on the Way Home From Surgery, Sent to Detention Center

A traveler talks to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official near the exit of the international arrivals terminal at Newark Liberty International Airport, Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

See below for important updates to this evolving story. 

There is a mind-bending story developing after ICE reportedly stopped an ambulance carrying ten-year-old Rosa Maria Hernandez on her way for emergency surgery. Hernandez and her family are in the country illegally. The agents allowed the girl, who has cerebral palsy, to continue to the hospital, where she had surgery and then was discharged into the custody of Border Patrol agents. They took Rosemaria 150 miles away from her family to a juvenile detention center in San Antonio.

The New York Times reports that according to family members and advocates involved in her case, “…immigration agents had taken her to a facility in San Antonio where migrant children who arrive alone in the United States from Central America are usually held, even though her parents, who both lack legal status, live 150 miles away in Laredo.”

“Her placement there highlighted the unusual circumstances of her case: The federal government maintains detention centers for adult immigrants it plans to deport, facilities for families who arrive at the border together and shelters for children who come by themselves, known as unaccompanied minors,” the report explained. “But it is rare, if not unheard-of, for a child already living in the United States to be arrested — particularly one with a serious medical condition.”

A family member said that they were living in Mexico but could not afford her medical care, so they crossed the border and got on Medicaid. Meanwhile, veterans are dying waiting for medical care, illustrating one of the reasons illegal immigration is so costly and harmful to Americans.

The situation is unbearable on many fronts for citizens and non-citizens alike. Allowing illegal border crossing increases suffering for everyone — from victims of human trafficking to criminalizing ten-year-old disabled children. Instead of Hernandez recovering at home in Mexico with her family around her, she is now in a detention center —alone.

PJ Media reached out to Texas ICE and the Department of Homeland Security for an explanation, but they were either unavailable or would not comment. There are several questions left unanswered. While most of us agree that entering the country illegally should not be allowed, the process of removing illegal aliens should not take on the form of separating disabled children from their parents under any circumstances unless the parents are abusive. Without confirmation or explanation from ICE, it’s difficult to understand why a child in medical distress would be housed so far from her family.

The question should be asked: Why is Hernandez in a detention center without her family? Unfortunately, ICE isn’t talking.

UPDATE October 27, 2:50 p.m. Eastern:  ICE responded to PJ Media, informing us that they have nothing to do with the Hernandez case and referred us to Customs and Border Patrol, the Department of Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services. All three have been contacted and we are awaiting responses. Senators Cornyn and Cruz have also been contacted but calls have gone unreturned and staff office lines are sent directly to voicemail— on a weekday during regular business hours.

UPDATE October 27, 3:29 p.m. Eastern:  In a tone-deaf statement, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) responded saying,

As a matter of policy, in order to protect the privacy and security of the unaccompanied alien children (UAC) referred to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), HHS does not identify individual UAC and will not comment on specific cases.”

It appears that Hernandez is not unaccompanied, however, which has led to the entire confusion over her detainment. PJ Media asked for clarification and explained that Hernandez is not “unaccompanied” but has received no response as of yet. 

UPDATE October 27, 4:29 p.m. Eastern: A Customs and Border Patrol spokesperson responded to PJ Media confirming that Hernandez is in their custody.

On Tuesday, Oct. 24, a 10-year-old child with her adult cousin, approached the Freer Border Patrol Checkpoint, east of Laredo, Texas in a medical transport vehicle heading to a hospital in Corpus Christi. As the 10-year-old was not accompanied by a parent or legal guardian, and was not legally in the United States, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is required by the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, to take the unaccompanied child into custody.  For the welfare of the child, she was escorted by Border Patrol agents to the hospital to undergo surgery and remained with the unaccompanied child until such time as she could be transferred to the Health and Human Services Office of Refugees and Resettlement to re-unite the child with her parents.

However, Hernandez does not seem to meet the legal definition of an unaccompanied alien minor (UAC) according to US Citizen and Immigration Service, which defines a UAC as “a child who: has no lawful immigration status in the United States; has not attained 18 years of age; and has no parent or legal guardian in the United States, or for whom no parent or legal guardian in the United States is available to provide care and physical custody.

Since Hernandez’s parents are in the United States in Laredo, Texas, and can provide for her care and physical custody there is confusion as to why she was treated as a UAC. Further questioning to CBP went unanswered.