In South Texas, Rosa Maria and Jane Doe face the cruel realities of the administration’s immigration enforcement policies.
In a nation where kids are taught to dream, in recent weeks Donald Trump’s deportation machine has turned the lives of two young girls into living nightmares. Both arrived in South Texas as children; both are Latinas; both are undocumented; and both are being persecuted by the federal government.
Rosa Maria is a 10-year old elementary student with cerebral palsy. Jane Doe, whose identity is protected, is a newly arrived 17-year-old from Central America. Their life experiences are vastly different, but their stories are inextricably linked.
Rosa Maria’s medical condition requires constant attention. When she needed an emergency surgical procedure, a children’s hospital in Laredo transported her to its main facility in Corpus Christi, 150 miles away, where she could receive proper care. Knowing they’d have to go through an immigration checkpoint, her mother stayed behind and sent a relative with her. The relative provided Border Patrol a letter authorizing her to accompany Rosa Maria and another letter authorizing the medical transport.
Rather than facilitate Rosa Maria’s passage, Border Patrol agents instead followed the vehicle. Once at the hospital, agents stationed themselves outside her operating room during surgery, shadowed her every move, and evenremained outside her recovery room. This child with a disability was alone in a strange place with armed agents outside her door. They were intent on detaining her as soon as she regained consciousness. Her nightmare was just beginning.
A few weeks before, in a nearby border town, Jane Doe willingly surrendered herself to federal authorities. She had escaped violence in Central America and took the long, lonely, and dangerous journey to seek refuge in America. But upon examination by doctors, she learned she was a few weeks pregnant. Jane said she wanted an abortion and began taking all of the draconian steps Texas requires. Despite a court order finding that she could determine what’s in her own best interest, the Trump Administration and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton threw up every imaginable hurdle to block her choice to terminate her pregnancy.
Lawyers and advocates fought for over a month to protect Jane’s right to obtain an abortion. After a breakneck series of multiple court decisions, a federal appellate court ruled she could proceed to terminate her pregnancy. The government threatened to appeal again, this time to the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, in Corpus Christi, the same federal agency seeking to block Jane from obtaining an abortion was preparing to take custody of Rosa Maria. Hospitals are considered a “sensitive location” under the Department of Homeland Security’s own policy—not only is it cruel to conduct immigration enforcement there, but it deters immigrants everywhere from seeking help even for life-threatening conditions. This young child posed no threat to national security and is certainly not a flight risk. But Border Patrol agents remain undeterred in their attempt to deport her.
Rosa Maria is now in a shelter locked away from family as the government wrongly processes her as an “unaccompanied” child. Even after we filed suit to demand her release, we do not yet know when that will happen. But we do know that, when advocates push hard to protect the rights of the most vulnerable, justice has a chance. On the morning that the federal government was preparing to take Jane’s case to the Supreme Court, she succeeded in obtaining an abortion.
Jane reflected on the nationwide outpouring of support she received following her ordeal: “I am touched by this show of love from people I may never know and from a country I am just beginning to know.”
For Jane and Rosa Maria’s sake, and for those other children likely to be targeted by an unhinged deportation force, we must all fight to ensure our country lives up to its ideals of welcoming and protecting the most vulnerable, especially children yearning to dream.