Feds Deport 4-Year-Old U.S. Citizen to Guatemala
Emily Samantha Ruiz, a four-year-old girl born in New York, was detained by US immigration authorities and deported to Guatemala after she and her grandfather were stopped by customs officials earlier this month.
According to the Huffington Post, little Emily was traveling home from Guatemala with her grandfather on March 11 when the pair was detained at Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC. Her grandfather, a non-citizen, was nabbed on an illegal entry charge dating back more than a decade.
Emily’s parents, also undocumented immigrants from Guatemala, claim they were given an extremely difficult choice by immigration officials: have her deported to Guatemala, or have the toddler locked up in a juvenile detention facility in the US, with the prospect of a childhood spent in foster care, away from her parents.
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), part of the Department of Homeland Security, denies not giving Emily’s parents the opportunity to take custody of their daughter. “CBP strives to reunite U.S. citizen children with their parents. If the parents choose not to take custody of their children, CBP works with other agencies to ensure the children’s safety and well being, up to and including releasing them into the custody of other relatives,” said spokesman Michael Friel in a statement. “In this case, the parents were offered the chance to pick up the child, but elected to have her return to Guatemala with her grandfather.”
Immigration attorney David Sperling is representing the Ruiz family. He says that federal officials failed to properly communicate to Emily’s father his options for picking up his daughter. “Mr. Ruiz categorically denies CBP’s allegation that he was offered an opportunity to reunite with Emily,” he said. “The person from CBP that spoke to Mr. Ruiz only spoke English, even though CBP has many officers who speak Spanish at Dulles Airport. … Since a little child was at stake, why did they fail to provide a bilingual officer to speak to Mr. Ruiz?”
Emily’s parents could have faced deportation if they attempted to pick up their daughter.
This story is likely to have a happy ending. Sperling plans to travel to Guatemala next week to retrieve Emily and re-unite her with her parents. She will be one of the lucky ones: more than 100,000 undocumented immigrant parents of children who are US citizens were deported between 1998 and 2007.
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