SAN ANTONIO — The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Texas filed a federal lawsuit today seeking to free 10-year-old Rosa Maria Hernandez from government custody and reunite her with her family.
Rosa Maria was en route to gallbladder surgery last week from her home in Laredo, Texas, to Corpus Christi, when she was stopped at an immigration checkpoint. U.S. Border Patrol followed her to the hospital and camped outside her room until she was discharged. Agents then immediately seized Rosa Maria — who was still recovering in her hospital bed — and jailed her miles away in a facility for children, alone and without her parents. They had no warrant.
Rosa Maria, who has cerebral palsy, has never been separated from her parents, and her medical condition requires constant attention; she is completely dependent on her mother.
“It is unconscionable to target a little girl in a children’s hospital,” said Michael Tan, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Hospitals are considered sensitive locations under Homeland Security’s own policy, and Border Patrol should not be arresting people there — especially children. The government’s actions are unlawful, cruel, and threaten to keep parents with sick children from seeking care. It is also unconstitutional to deprive a child of the love and care her parents have provided her entire life.”
Rosa Maria is being held in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, in violation of her statutory and constitutional rights. She has lived in her parents’ care in the United States since she was 3 months old.
Forcibly separating Rosa Maria from her family is causing trauma for her and her entire family — as would the sudden and forcible removal of any young child from a stable and loving family environment.
“All of us should be outraged and alarmed that the federal government would chase a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy to a hospital, arrest her after surgery, and rip her from her loving home. This is not only unconstitutional, but heartless,” said Andre Segura, legal director of the ACLU of Texas.
The case, R.M.H. v. Lloyd, was filed in federal district court in San Antonio after federal authorities failed to comply with the ACLU’s demand that Rosa Maria be released to her family by 3 p.m. ET on Tuesday, October 31. Alina Das of the New York University School of Law and Ranjana Natarajan of the University of Texas School of Law are co-counsel. The Office of Refugee Resettlement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are among the named defendants.