Thursday, December 3, 2020

Four-year-old American Citizen deported to Guatemala


Emily Samantha Ruiz, a 4-year-old U.S. citizen was deported to Guatemala along with her grandfather earlier this month, raising concerns over the treatment of children born to undocumented immigrants in the country.

“The case is alarming because it shows what can happen once you start treating kids who are born here whose parents are undocumented with less rights than a full-blown citizen,” Jeanne A. Butterfield, a former executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association who has been acting as an informal adviser to Mr. Ruiz’s lawyers, said.

Ruiz was on her way back home from a family trip to Guatemala with her grandfather, a non-citizen on a valid work visa, when her grandfather was told by immigration officials at Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C., that he would not be allowed to remain in the country because of an immigration infraction made two decades ago.

It was hours before the young girl’s frantic family discovered what had happened. Emily’s father, Leonel Ruiz, a Guatemalan immigrant living in Brentwood, N.Y., disputes the claims by officials at Customs and Border Protection that they offered him the opportunity to pick up Emily at the airport. Ruiz, who speaks little English, says he was told by an agent who only spoke English over the telephone that he could choose one of two options, let Emily enter the custody of the State of Virginia or be deported with her grandfather to Guatemala.

Despite risking possible detention, he said, “If we had to go there, we would have gone there.”

Fearing that their daughter would be put up for adoption by the state, they opted to let Emily return with her grandfather. Officials counter that they did offer Ruiz to pick their daughter up at the airport. His daughter has the right to re-enter the country as a U.S. citizen but her parent’s undocumented statuses pose a challenge to bringing their young daughter home, raising the question of how authorities should deal with families with mixed legal statuses.

The case takes place as federal and state representatives all over the county have introduced measures to end automatic citizenship rights for U.S. born children of undocumented immigrants. Just last week, Republican lawmakers in Arizona attempted to pass a bill that would deny automatic citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants hoping to get the U.S. Supreme Court to make a ruling on the 14th Amendment which guarantees citizenship to anyone born in the U.S.

That measure ultimately failed but other states are considering similar legislation. Immigration reform advocates disagree with these proposals calling them “antithetical to American ideals.”

“She was treated like a second-class citizen or worse,” said immigration lawyer David Sperling, who is representing Ruiz’s parents. “She’s a U.S. citizen, and she’s entitled to the same rights as any other U.S. citizen.”

The Huffington Post reports, Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) has also stepped forward on behalf of the Ruiz family sending a letter to Department of Homeland Security, urging them to reunite the young Ruiz with her parents.

“This bureaucratic overreach and utter failure of commonsense has left a little girl — a U.S. citizen no less — stranded thousands of miles from her parents,” Israel said in a statement. “I’m working with the family and their attorney to reunite Emily and her parents and asking for DHS to do a formal review of how this could have happened.”

Sperling plans to travel to Guatemala next week to escort young Emily back home.

New York Times

Huffington Post