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10-Year-Old Girl Is Detained By Border Patrol After Emergency Surgery

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and Los Angeles police offi...

Photo by Jae C. Hong AP

Above: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and Los Angeles police officers enter a house during a joint operation in 2009.

Updated at 9:30 a.m. ET

Immigrant advocates are protesting the Border Patrol's apprehension this week of a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy who is in the country illegally after she was operated on at a Texas hospital.

Federal immigration officers intercepted the child as she and a cousin, who is a U.S. citizen, were in an ambulance being transferred between two hospitals so that she could receive emergency gall bladder surgery.

Rosamaria Hernandez was brought to the United States illegally from Mexico when she was 3 months old, according to her family and immigrant advocates involved in her case. She was traveling in an ambulance to Driscoll Children's Hospital in Corpus Christi when federal immigration officers stopped the vehicle at a checkpoint.

The Border Patrol agents followed the ambulance to the hospital. When the hospital discharged the child, Border Patrol agents took the 10-year-old into custody instead of allowing her cousin to take her back to her parents, who are also in the country illegally, in Laredo.

The young Mexican national has now been transported to a government-contracted juvenile shelter in San Antonio, 150 miles from Laredo, and put into deportation proceedings.

The Border Patrol defends its agents, saying they escorted Rosamaria to the children's hospital to ensure she received appropriate medical care and then processed her according to U.S. immigration laws.

In an open letter addressed to the Department of Homeland Security's acting secretary, Elaine Duke, the advocacy group DreamActivist says Rosamaria was told "she has two options; sign voluntary departure or spend up to 3 weeks in detention."

"Families should not have to decide between getting life saving help, or being deported," the group said in the letter.

Democrats in Congress recently demanded the homeland security secretary rein in immigration agents making an increasing number of arrests at or near hospitals, churches and schools. Immigrant advocates are calling it the latest outrage under President Trump's aggressive immigration enforcement.

Alex Galvez, a lawyer representing Rosamaria, tells Newsweek that "this wouldn't have happened during the Obama administration."

"This current administration wants to send a clear message to all undocumented immigrants — that if you want to go to [a] hospital, you better think twice about it because you might be deported," he told the magazine.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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