An undocumented 10-year-old girl who was rushed to a children’s hospital in Corpus Christi, TX, for gallbladder surgery now finds herself in even worse trouble after federal immigration officials reportedly warned the girl’s family that she must leave the country when she’s well enough or face deportation proceedings.
The girl, Rosa Maria Hernandez, has lived in the U.S. since she was three months old. She had to pass through a Border Patrol checkpoint to reach the hospital, where she was scheduled for surgery. She was having complications from kidney stones after first being treated in Laredo, according to her mother, Felipa Delacruz.
On Wednesday morning, her mother said she was released from the hospital and is likely bound for a detention center in the state.
Delacruz told The Corpus Christi Caller-Times that Rosa Maria’s cousin, Aurora Cantu, who is an American citizen, accompanied the young girl in an ambulance early Tuesday morning. That’s when they were stopped by Border Patrol, who sent federal agents to escort the ambulance the rest of the way to Corpus Christi.
“They told me that my aunt (Rosa Maria’s mother) had two options,” Cantu told the San Antonio Express-News. “The first option was we could take her back to Mexico and arrange for a family member to get her. If my aunt didn’t want to do that, the second option was that she could spend several weeks in a detention center.”
Delacruz, who is also undocumented and remains in Laredo, said federal agents even waited outside her daughter’s hospital room. The hospital would not confirm this account to the Caller-Times.
In a statement provided to Splinter, Customs and Border Protection confirmed that there had been a stop on U.S. 59, and seemed to hint that Rosa Maria would face detention and deportation to Mexico when she’s well enough, but emphasized that agents escorted the girl and her cousin to the hospital after screening them at the checkpoint.
“Due to the juvenile’s medical condition, Border Patrol agents escorted her and her cousin to a Corpus Christi hospital where she could receive appropriate medical care,” the statement said. “Per the immigration laws of the United States, once medically cleared she will be processed accordingly.”
Rosa Maria is not the first gravely ill child to be caught up in Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s web, with parents forced to incriminate themselves in order to get the medical care their children need. The case bears an eery similarity to the story of Oscar and Irma Sanchez, an undocumented couple whose infant son needed urgent surgery late last month. They too were stopped while traveling to a children’s hospital in Corpus Christi, constantly surveilled by ICE agents at the hospital, and told they would both face deportation proceedings when their son was well.
Update, Oct. 25, 1:09 PM: Spokeswoman Jennifer Elzea said in an email to Splinter that ICE agents are not at the hospital and that she was “not aware that ICE personnel were in the facility in question at all.” She directed us to Customs and Border Protection for further inquiries about officers at the hospital.
This story has also been updated with a statement from CBP.
Update, Oct. 26, 9:10 AM: Rosa Maria Hernandez was officially detained Wednesday and sent to a facility in San Antonio, the New York Times reported. She is reportedly being treated as an unaccompanied minor even though her family lives in the United States.