US government releases 10-year-old detained Mexican girl with cerebral palsy after ACLU lawsuit
The U.S. government released from custody a 10-year-old Mexican girl with cerebral palsy on Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union said, 10 days after the ambulance taking her to surgery in Texas was stopped at a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint.
Rosa Maria Hernandez has lived in the United States illegally since her family brought over the border to Texas when she was 3 months old. Her detention was criticized by civil rights groups and some Democratic politicians who oppose the crackdown by Republican President Donald Trump on illegal immigration.
The circumstances of Hernandez’s release into her family’s care were not immediately clear.
It came three days after the ACLU sued the U.S. government, saying the government arrested the child without a necessary warrant and was violating her rights, in part by denying her doctor’s orders for follow-up appointments in the days after the surgery.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which took over custody of Hernandez after she was detained by immigration officials, said in a statement it could not comment on individual cases, but that it treats each child “with the utmost care.”
Hernandez needed gallbladder surgery last Tuesday, and was taken in an ambulance with her cousin, a U.S. citizen, from Laredo, on the border with Mexico where the girl lives with her family, to a hospital in Corpus Christi, about 130 miles (210 km) away.
Her ambulance had to pass through one of the dozens of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol checkpoints set up on highways close to the Mexico border.
The border agents allowed Hernandez to proceed to the hospital and waited outside her room while she began her recovery before taking her into custody and driving her to a federal shelter in San Antonio, Texas, according to Leticia Gonzalez, a lawyer for the girl’s family, who filmed the encounter.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health declined to say if Hernandez or her family would have to meet with immigration officials again or have their case brought to court.
Michael Tan, an ACLU lawyer, said in a statement that Hernandez would “go home to heal” with her family.
“Despite our relief, Border Patrol’s decision to target a young girl at a children’s hospital remains unconscionable,” he said.
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Leslie Adler)