The Huffington Post is reporting that a 4-year-old girl who is a U.S. citizen was sent back to Guatemala when she entered the country with her grandfather.
Here is part of the story from The Huffington Post (check the link for all the details):
“The girl, Emily Samantha Ruiz, is a U.S. citizen. But she, like many other children of undocumented immigrants, became caught in a web of complications for families with mixed legal statuses. On her way home from a trip to Guatemala with her grandfather on March 11, Emily was detained in Dulles International Airport when authorities stopped her grandfather on an illegal entry charge from more than a decade ago.
“Authorities took her grandfather, a non-citizen on a valid work visa that allowed him to travel, into custody. But the young girl was detained in the airport, then sent back to Guatemala with her grandfather, citizenship notwithstanding. ”
Her family claims they were told Emily would either have to be sent back to Guatemala or put in a juvenile facility in the U.S. where she could end up in foster care.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection claimed they did offer the Ruiz family an opportunity to pick the girl up from authorities before she was sent back.
The father, who speaks Spanish, said the officer only spoke to him in English and he was not offered a translator. So he didn’t believe he was offered the choice of coming to get his daughter.
But there’s more to the story if you read down further:
“If Emily’s parents had gone to pick up their daughter from authorities, they could have risked deportation along with her grandfather. Immigration law leaves few options for immigrants who entered the country illegally and hope to gain legal status, typically requiring undocumented immigrants to return to their native country for a decade before they can reenter the country legally. Emily’s father, who told The New York Times he entered the United States unauthorized in 1996, could face detention if he encounters immigration officials. ”
“More than 100,000 parents of citizen children were deported between 1998 and 2007, according to a 2009 Homeland Security report. Many families contain both citizens or legal permanent residents and undocumented immigrants, including those like the Ruiz family where only young children have U.S. citizenship. About 4 million citizen children have at least one parent who is undocumented, according to a Pew Hispanic Center study of 2009 census data released in August.”
The story states that the more common twist on this is that the illegal parents are deported and the child is left behind alone in the U.S. (There are more details on the ins and outs of the immigration labyrinth toward the end of the story.)
The little girl will likely be reunited with her family soon. Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) is helping the family sort it all out.
So what do you think? Who do you believe? Was the family offered a choice to come and get their daughter but they were worried they would be deported? Did the immigration officials do this family wrong by not speaking in Spanish to them where they could understand their choices?
What should happen to families where the parents are illegal but the children are legal? Should families be split up based on immigration status?
– Theresa Walsh Giarrusso, ajc.com Momania