Lawsuit Seeks Release of Disabled Immigrant, 10, Held After Hospital Visit

The US Border Patrol detained Rosa Maria Hernandez after she was discharged from a hospital. Photograph: Bill Wechter/AFP/Getty Images

Rosa Maria Hernandez, who has cerebral palsy, has been in Border Patrol custody in Texas following stop at checkpoint en route to hospital

A lawsuit has been filed seeking the immediate release of a disabled 10-year-old girl detained by the US Border Patrol after she went through a checkpoint on the way to hospital for an operation.

Rosa Maria Hernandez has been in custody at a shelter in San Antonio since last Wednesday after she was discharged by a hospital in Corpus Christi following gallbladder surgery.

She has cerebral palsy and, according to the federal suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday, has the cognitive development of a six-year-old and requires specialised care and constant attention.

Rosa Maria’s parents brought her from Mexico to the US when she was three months old. At about 2am last Tuesday, the special-needs transport vehicle taking her on the 150-mile journey from her home in the Texas border city of Laredo to Driscoll children’s hospital was stopped at an interior Border Patrol checkpoint and agents discovered her undocumented status.

Officers then followed Rosa Maria, who was travelling with a 34-year-old cousin who is a US citizen. The lawsuit states they “shadowed her every move at the hospital. But rather than permit R.M.H. to return to her family once she was discharged after surgery, as her doctors had recommended, the agents arrested R.M.H. directly from her hospital bed, without a warrant, for the purpose of initiating removal proceedings to deport her from the United States.”

The girl was taken 150 miles away to a shelter for unaccompanied minors run by a government contractor, where she is being held while the Office of Refugee Resettlement determines whether she can be returned to her family, an assessment process that could take weeks or months. Her primary caregiver, her mother, is undocumented and has been unable to visit her at the shelter.

By Tom Dart for THE GUARDIAN
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