(AFP) US immigration officials last week followed a 10-year-old undocumented girl with cerebral palsy to a Texas hospital and detained her after surgery for deportation, advocates charged Monday.
The American Civil Liberties Union, in a letter sent to multiple government agencies in charge of refugee children, demanded Rosa Maria Hernandez be released to her parents, who live in the US city of Laredo along the Mexico border.
“Forcibly separating Rosa Maria from her family inflicts serious psychological and emotional injury on her and on her entire family,” the ACLU said in its letter.
The civil rights group gave the government until Tuesday afternoon to release the child, before it would take “immediate legal action.”
Hernandez suffers from cerebral palsy, a brain developmental illness that affects body movement and muscle control.
Her mother brought her illegally into the US from Mexico when she was three months old for better medical care, according to US media reports. They crossed from Nuevo Laredo to Laredo — adjacent cities separated by the border.
The girl travelled last week by ambulance to a hospital in a nearby Texas city for surgery, accompanied by a US citizen adult relative.
Immigration agents stopped them at a checkpoint and followed them to the hospital, where they monitored her medical treatment and took her into custody after doctors released her, according to the ACLU and media reports.
Her arrest has caused outrage, with some questioning the Donald Trump administration’s priorities, amid increasing detentions of undocumented immigrants.
US President Donald Trump has called for tougher enforcement, promising to focus on those who commit crimes while in the US illegally.
Supporters raised more than US$26,000 on GoFundMe to help with Hernandez’s legal costs.
The Washington Post, in an editorial, questioned “the judgment — not to mention humanity — of federal agents.”
And, US Congressman Joaquin Castro — a Texas Democrat who sits on foreign affairs and intelligence committees — last week added, “A small child who just had surgery is not a threat.”
The US agency in charge of child migrant care told AFP that it could not comment on a specific case. It said it generally endeavours to release children to approved “sponsors” through an application process.
US Customs and Border Protection did not respond to a request for comment.