Oscar and Irma Sanchez, both of whom are undocumented immigrants living in Texas, were arrested while awaiting a serious surgery for their two-month-old son, highlighting the excruciating human cost of President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant crusade.
A heart-wrenching story published by NPR on Wednesday evening detailed how the couple came into contact with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials back in May while seeking treatment for their son Isaac’s pyloric stenosis, a condition that causes vomiting and weight loss in infants. There was no hospital that could perform the surgery in the Rio Grande Valley area where the couple lives, so they would have to drive to a children’s hospital in Corpus Christi, TX—and past a Border Patrol checkpoint.
But as they were sitting in another hospital trying to figure out how to proceed, the choice was made for them, as a Border Patrol agent turned up in the waiting room. (Oscar Sanchez told NPR he suspects a nurse called the authorities on them.) The agent said they officers could escort the couple to the Corpus Christi hospital for their son to get his surgery, but that they would be arrested the moment they arrived and face deportation proceedings. As any parent would, the couple agreed.
What followed were two straight days of constant surveillance by Border Patrol agents, who Sanchez said never left their sides, asking Irma to keep the door open while she breast-fed and following him to the hospital cafeteria. They were arrested and separately taken to the local Border Patrol station to be booked before being allowed to return to their baby’s side. Sanchez asked the doctor to delay the operation until both he and his wife could be at the hospital.
“We didn’t know if they were going to let us stay with our son or not,” Sanchez told NPR in Spanish. “You feel vulnerable.”
Advocacy groups said the treatment the Sanchez family was subjected to is usually reserved for high-value targets like violent gang members or drug traffickers. Neither Oscar nor Irma have a criminal record.
It’s the latest terrifying incident in a series of arrests where immigration authorities are encroaching on spaces once thought safe for undocumented people. Immigration police have turned up to arrest people at hospitals, homeless shelters, and courthouses since the Trump administration rolled back Obama era protections to avoid making arrests in sensitive locations.
ICE has also dramatically escalated the number of immigrants it has arrested even though they have no criminal record, and Thomas Homan, the acting head of ICE, has warned all undocumented people that they are targets for potential deportation.