Bishops “appalled” by Border Patrol agents detaining child with cerebral palsy

(Photo via @DreamAct / Twitter)

The Catholic bishops of Texas said they were "saddened and appalled" by the decision of federal immigration agents to detain a 10-year-old girl—in the United States since she was baby—who has cerebral palsy.

Rosa Maria Hernandez, who is in the country without documents, was en route to a hospital for emergency gall bladder surgery in Corpus Christi when federal agents first detained and held her Oct. 10. After the surgery, the girl was taken once more from her family and put into a juvenile detention center in San Antonio.

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On Oct. 26, Rosa Maria was placed into the custody of the federal Office of Refugees and Resettlement.

"I am saddened and appalled that Border Patrol agents are stopping ambulances from transporting children to hospitals," said a statement by Bishop James A. Tamayo of Laredo issued Oct. 27 in Austin by the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops.

Border Patrol agents are stopping ambulances from transporting children to hospitals.

"This action is not humane," Bishop Tamayo said. "It also shows why people are afraid of law enforcement agents and why we need greater protection for locales identified by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) as 'sensitive locations,' such as schools, places of worship and hospitals."

"Fear is the overarching emotion encompassing this tragic situation," said a statement by Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio. "(It is) obviously the fear and bewilderment being felt at this time by Rosa Maria and her family, but also the fear that must be felt by some who view an ill 10-year-old as a type of threat to the security and safety of our country."

Archbishop Garcia-Siller added he has been in contact with federal authorities and hopes to meet with Rosa Maria and her family as soon as possible.

"This action is not humane," Bishop Tamayo said.

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, the public policy arm of the state's bishops, said federal agents seemed to disregard their own policy in the matter.

The conference cited an August 2016 memo from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, that says, in part: "The policies provide that enforcement actions at or focused on sensitive locations such as schools, places of worship and hospitals should generally be avoided, and that such actions may only take place when (a) prior approval is obtained from an appropriate supervisory official, or (b) there are exigent circumstances necessitating immediate action without supervisor approval."

Enforcement of immigration laws "should provide punishments which are proportional to an offense," the Catholic conference statement said. "This case further highlights the urgency of comprehensive immigration reform, which the bishops have consistently supported."

Correction, Oct. 30: An earlier headline accompanying this story stated that the child had been detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The child was detained by Border Patrol. The headline has been amended to reflect this change.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Justin Ramza
2 months 3 weeks ago

"but also the fear that must be felt by some who view an ill 10-year-old as a type of threat to the security and safety of our country."

Ummm. I think that pretty much sums it all up right there; Kinda tragic to the point of being funny- that people who view this chronically (and intermittently acutely) severely ill little girl with a devastating disease as a threat to national security - these people are running our nation.

Lonnie Barone
2 months 3 weeks ago

This is who we are as a nation now. The new normal. Like abolitionists in the early 1800s, those of us who know that the good lies on a different path must stand strong in the face of this cruelty, denounce it, and reach out in love to protect the least among us.

This action, detaining a seriously ill child of 10, has little to do with preserving the integrity of our borders and much to do with a hard-hearted disdain for the Other. As a nation we are beginning to reek with the foul breath of unapologetic contempt for those deemed not like us.

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