AMBULANCE TRANSFERRING CHILD STOPPED, SEARCHED AT CHECKPOINT
In more disgusting news of the trickle down political variety from the Trump Administration, we bring you the Border Patrol apprehending and a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy as she was being transferred from one hospital to another for emergency gallbladder surgery. She was traveling in the ambulance with an adult cousin who is a U.S. citizen. The agents essentially staked out the little girl with cerebral palsy in the hospital and then formally detained her after her surgery.
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The little girl’s name is Rosa Maria Hernandez, and she came into the United States illegally from Mexico in 2007 at the age of three months. Her mother, Felipa de la Cruz, explained that they came to the United States to get better medical care and services for little Rosa Maria. The family lives in Laredo, Texas and all are currently undocumented. Despite their status, no one expected Rosa Maria to be harassed nor detained by immigration agents while receiving life-saving surgery.
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Rosa Maria was traveling in an ambulance — accompanied by her cousin — to Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi two weeks ago when federal immigration officers stopped the vehicle at a checkpoint. Again, border patrol stopped an ambulance carrying a 10-year-old at a checkpoint. Does that sound like the United States, or a Gestapo State?
The Border Patrol agents then proceeded to follow the ambulance to the hospital. According to the Hernandez family’s lawyer, Leticia Gonzalez, the agents even insisted the detained child has the door to her hospital room left open at all times to keep an eye on her. So, they essentially treated her like a security threat as well as a flight risk. Those are our tax dollars being spent there, keeping us all safe from a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy who just had gallbladder surgery.
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After she had recovered from her surgery, the hospital discharged Rosa Maria. The lawyer, reading from the discharge papers on a recent conference call with reporters, said that doctors had recommended the child be released to “a family member who is familiar with her medical and psychological needs.” But immigration officers decided instead to transport the detained child to a government-contracted juvenile shelter in San Antonio, 150 miles from Laredo, and put her into deportation proceedings. Again, a 10-year-old girl, with cerebral palsy, who just had surgery, without family, put into a detention center to be deported.
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The Border Patrol, of course, defends all of its actions at the checkpoint, the hospital and the youth shelter. Dan Hetlage, (the guy who drew the short straw) a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, says that throughout the two-day incident, agents were just enforcing federal immigration law.
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“The agent is wrong if he lets her go. We don’t have the discretion. It’s not a traffic ticket. We follow the letter of the law,” Hetlage said.
“It’s frustrating for us,” he went on, “I’m a human being. The agents are trying to do their job as humanely as possible.”
The Border Patrol always defends its agents, saying that they escorted Rosa Maria to the children’s hospital to ensure she received appropriate medical care and then proceeded to process her as they say is required according to U.S. immigration laws.
But immigrant advocates are calling it just the latest disturbing outrage under President Trump’s aggressive immigration enforcement.
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Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio has condemned the agents’ actions, explaining that they treated the sick girl like “a hardened convict” but that she posed “no threat to national security. … This apprehension occurred despite the fact that the sensitive locations policy is still in effect. And remember they were staked outside the hospital room.”
Officers are discouraged (not barred) from conducting enforcement (ahem: apprehension, detaining, arrest) actions at or near so-called sensitive locations unless the arrest is related to national security, terrorism or public safety. Over 100 Democrats in Congress have made demands that the Department of Homeland Security rein in its immigration agents who are making an increasing number of arrests at or near hospitals, churches and schools.
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But the Border Patrol still insists it apprehended Rosa Maria at the checkpoint, not the hospital, and the checkpoint is not considered a sensitive location. Evidently semantics is key when you justify treating a 10-year-old with cerebral palsy like a dangerous criminal, requiring days of guards in a hospital, long distance travel and incarceration.
Astrid Dominguez, of the ACLU of Texas, says that “Rosa Maria shouldn’t spend one more day away from her parents. We are outraged that the Trump administration and Border Patrol would go after a child, like Rosa Maria.”
But more disturbing news comes from an open letter addressed to the Department of Homeland Security’s acting secretary, Elaine Duke. The letter, sent by the advocacy group DreamActivist, says Rosa Maria was told “she has two options; sign voluntary departure or spend up to 3 weeks in detention.” That’s how we treat children in the U.S., color, semantics and basic human decency aside.
“Families should not have to decide between getting life-saving help, or being deported,” the group declared in the letter.