A 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy has been placed in a federal detention facility in Texas hours away from her parents after she crossed an immigration checkpoint on her way to an emergency surgery this week, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported. The rare arrest of a developmentally disabled minor in a hospital setting comes as the U.S. toughens immigration enforcement and revokes Obama-era programs granting immunity to undocumented residents who came to the country as children.
For 10-year-old Rosamaria Hernandez, deportation proceedings are expected to begin as soon as she can be medically discharged following her gall bladder surgery, immigration lawyer Alex Galvez told the Caller-Times.
Hernandez, an undocumented immigrant, was reportedly just three-months-old when her mother brought her over the border seeking better medical care. Border Patrol agents stopped Hernandez’s ambulance at 2 a.m. on Tuesday as it raced toward a hospital, according to the girl’s mother. Federal agents accompanied them to the hospital and waited outside the room while Hernandez went through an operation, her mother added.
On Wednesday, Hernandez was transferred to a children’s immigration facility, which typically holds unaccompanied children arrested after entering the country alone.
The New York Times called it “rare, if not unheard-of” for a minor with a serious medical condition and already living in the U.S. with her parents to be arrested and detained.
Leticia Gonzalez, an advocate working on Hernandez’s case, told the Caller-Times that she has unsuccessfully petitioned federal agents release the 10-year-old to family members who are U.S. citizens after a doctor advised the move on medical grounds.
“At this point, our argument to [immigration officials] is there is a doctor’s directive, why aren’t you following it?” Gonzalez said.
Customs and Border Protection spokesman Rod Kise said in a statement to the Caller-Times that the agency has a duty to enforce immigration law.
However, U.S. immigration policy includes a stipulation to ensure “enforcement actions do not occur” at sensitive locations — including hospitals, schools, places of worship and public ceremonies.
Hernandez’s arrest reflects the increasingly aggressive immigration enforcement pursued under Donald Trump’s administration. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers have been granted more authority to carry out enforcement operations and arrests of undocumented immigrants. During Trump’s first 100 days in office, the number of immigration arrests rose nearly 40 percent compared with the same period in 2016, according to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
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Write to Laignee Barron at Laignee.Barron@time.com