Faith Leaders, Security Experts Denounce Rosa Maria’s Detention

Communications Associate

October 31, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rosa Maria Hernandez, 10, remains alone in immigration detention after U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents took her into custody immediately following emergency gallbladder surgery last week.

Her detention and separation from her family have shaken people in Texas and nationwide.

Catholic bishops in Texas are denouncing the lack of compassion, questioning the administration’s noncompliance with its own policies and emphasizing the need for broad immigration reform.

“Fear is the overarching emotion encompassing this tragic situation,” said 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.”

In addition to condemning CBP’s inhumane treatment of Rosa Maria, security experts are questioning why a child with cerebral palsy who needs medical attention warrants the same prioritization as a criminal who poses a public safety threat.

“It’s inexplicable to me that our government would have its agents conduct this action,” said Alonzo Peña, deputy director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under George W. Bush. “Those agents should be out on the line stopping drugs, stopping gang members, protecting national security, not doing this to a 10-year-old girl who has just come out of surgery and has other medical issues.”

And in a blog post today, Edward Alden, Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, discusses why Rosa Maria never should have been arrested and that it’s likely her constitutional rights were violated.

He argues that CBP failed to use its discretion at least four times: when it chose to stop the ambulance rather than follow its own guidance on checkpoints, when it decided to treat Rosa Maria as an unaccompanied child despite both of her parents living in the U.S., when agents arrested her in a sensitive location, and when the agency placed her in removal proceedings.

Alden writes, “If CBP is allowed to hide behind the claim that it had no discretion in this case, then it truly has become hunting season on every unauthorized migrant in the country.”

Neither Rosa Maria nor her parents have a criminal record, and she was brought to the U.S. when she was 3 months old.

“The way the administration is treating Rosa Maria — and the message it sends to the immigrant community at large — is shameful. And this is a terrible use of enforcement resources,” said Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum. “Young children without criminal records who need medical attention should not be held in detention, separated from their families. Period.”

“All of us, especially members of Congress, need to ask the administration: Is this who we are as a country?”