ACLU Charges That Undocumented, Special Needs 10-Year-Old Is Being Held in Inhumane Conditions


The ACLU is preparing to sue for the release of Rosa Maria Hernandez, the undocumented 10-year-old with cerebral palsy who was taken into federal custody after surgery last week. In a letter dated Monday and addressed to the head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), the ACLU said that Hernandez is being held in dangerous and inhumane conditions.

The letter said that Hernandez, who’s never been separated from her parents before, has been cut off from the special education classes at school and therapeutic excercises and games with her mother that are the fabric of her daily life.

“[Rosa Maria’s] medical condition requires constant attention, and she is completely dependent on her mother,” the letter reads. “Most importantly, at home Rosa Maria receives the care of her mother, who has ensured that she has the support and home-based therapy she needs to thrive…Rosa Maria needs this care, stability, routine, and support. Without her mother and supportive community of services, her developmental progress will suffer.”

After her arrest and subsequent detainment—which came after Hernandez and her cousin were stopped at a Border Patrol checkpoint en route to the children’s hospital in Corpus Christi, TX, and then constantly surveilled at the hospital until the girl was well enough to be arrested—the ACLU is also taking issue with the federal government treating Hernandez as an “unaccompanied alien child.” Hernandez has lived in the country since she was three months old and now she’s being held in a facility in San Antonio, 150 miles away from her parents, who are also both undocumented, in Laredo.

In a tearful call with reporters last week, one day after Rosa Maria’s detention, her mother, Felipa De La Cruz, spoke about how painful it is to be separated from her child, and expressed concerns that the facility where she’s held isn’t equipped to provide the care her daughter needs.

“I would like to have her near me so I could be the one who is helping her and supporting her right now when she needs me the most,” De La Cruz said. “But it’s difficult—when I start to think about her, I start to get sad and I start to become desperate.”

The letter set a deadline of 2 p.m. CST on October 31 for the ORR to release Rosa Maria or face “immediate legal action” brought by the ACLU.

Update, October 30, 2:47 pm ET: In a statement to Splinter, the Department of Health and Human Services declined to comment on the case, citing “the privacy and security of the unaccompanied alien.”

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