TEN-YEAR-OLD Rosa Maria Hernandez is finally and thankfully back home with her family. Federal officials who had detained the undocumented immigrant with cerebral palsy as she was recovering from surgery were essentially shamed into doing the right thing — the humane thing. Let’s hope that continues so that a fragile little girl who poses no threat to anyone is allowed to stay in the country where her family has made a home and where she is able to receive the best treatment.
Rosa Maria was released last week from a federal detention facility and reunited with her parents in Laredo, Tex., 11 days after she was taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol agents in a case that set a sickening new low in the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration. Rosa Maria, who has the cognitive ability of a 6-year-old, was in an ambulance on her way to the hospital when she was stopped at a checkpoint and then kept under constant guard by federal agents as she underwent gallbladder surgery. Contrary to the advice of medical professionals, federal officials refused to release her to her family but instead treated her as an unaccompanied minor and placed her in a detention facility 150 miles from her home.
It was only after a public outcry that included a federal lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union and inquiries from Congress, including some Republicans, that she was released Friday. “Such a relief,” ACLU attorney Michael Tan told the New York Times. “It’s actually quite overwhelming. This was the first time in her life she was separated from her family.” But her release may not be the end; she still faces the possibility of deportation. Her parents, who also lack legal status, brought Rosa Maria to the United States when she was 3 months old to get better access to medical treatment for her cerebral palsy.
Immigration officials, according to Rosa Maria’s attorneys, have not made clear whether they intend to proceed with deportation proceedings against her. The amount of effort already expended to go after this sick little girl is just astounding and clearly out of whack with President Trump’s stated promise to go after “bad hombres.” Immigration officials should exercise some discretion: Do the right thing, the humane thing, and regularize Rosa Maria’s status so she can remain in the only home she has ever known.