After spending nine days in a children’s detention shelter in San Antonio TX, Rosa Maria Hernandez has been allowed to return home to her family. The 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy was on her way to a scheduled gall bladder surgery when she became a target of U.S. Border Patrol because she was an undocumented minor traveling without her parents.
After widespread outcry on social media and legal pressure from the ACLU, the young girl was brought back to her family’s home in Laredo, Texas on November 3.
Rosa Maria was being transported from her home to a children’s hospital in Corpus Christi on October 24 when her ambulance was detained at an immigration checkpoint. Finding her undocumented, border patrol agents followed the ambulance to the children’s hospital and stood guard while Rosa Maria’s operation was conducted. The ACLU reported that “armed male agents followed Rosa Maria’s every move, including staying in the room while nurses checked her weight and vital signs.”
After waking up from surgery, while still resting in her hospital bed, agents placed the 10-year-old girl under arrest and later brought her to a federal detention center in San Antonio.
During the nine days Rosa Maria spent in the facility, public outrage grew and the hashtag #FreeRosa was popular on social media. Members of Congress, physicians, lawyers and celebrities tweeted about the injustice of the incident. Sen. Dianne Feinstein wrote a letter calling for a congressional hearing and actress Alyssa Milano tweeted:
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 30, 2017
Because of her cerebral palsy, Rosa Maria has the cognitive capacity of a six-year-old and was disoriented and emotional throughout the time she spent in the detention center. On phone calls with her mother, the girl repeatedly asked, “Mom, where are you?”
Rosa Maria’s mother, who is also undocumented, could not accompany accompany the girl to surgery for fear being deported herself. A cousin who is a U.S. citizen, was given permission to escort the girl instead.
Michael Tan, a staff attorney with the ACLU said, “It is the most outrageous case I have ever worked on.” The ACLU is filing a lawsuit against the federal government for issuing an illegal, warrentless arrest and for discrimination based on disability.