September 24, 2017

Undocumented Parents Arrested At Children's Hospital Awaiting Baby's Surgery

Undocumented Parents Arrested At Children's Hospital Awaiting Baby's Surgery

A policy enacted under President Obama encouraging immigration agents to avoid enforcement actions in so-called sensitive locations has stirred controversy this week. The undocumented parents of a neonatal patient at Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi, TX were arrested as they awaited surgery for their 2-month-old. 

Image: NPR

Oscar and Irma Sanchez first came into contact with Customs Enforcement Officials in May when they were seeking urgent help for their newborn, Isaac. Isaac suffers from pyloric stenosis - a severe condition that causes vomiting and weight loss in infants. 

While the condition is treatable by surgery, there were no doctors in Rio Grande Valley who could perform the stomach surgery - the family made the reluctant trek to Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi, TX.

"The nurse told us we had to go there," Oscar says in Spanish. "We said we couldn't go."

On the way, they passed a border patrol checkpoint and continued on to another hospital in Harlingen, TX to consider their options.  

Sanchez told NPR that he believes a Nurse contacted the authorities - a Border Patrol Agent showed up to the hospital. Border Patrol Agents followed behind the ambulance holding the family, Isaac with an IV and stomach tube, to Driscoll Children’s Hospital. At the hospital, they were immediately arrested and taken to the local Border Patrol Station where they were separately booked. Their child remained at the hospital and his surgery delayed for another 2 days at the request of the parents and discretion of the surgeon. The family was constantly monitored but, Border Patrol Agents made sure that one parent was with the child at all times. “We didn’t know if they were going to let us stay with our son or not,” Sanchez remarked, “You feel vulnerable.”

Manny Padilla, chief of the Rio Grande Valley sector of the Border Patrol, stated, "We're happy to have been able to help a human life," he said, "We have a job to do, but we do that job as humanely as possible."

Isaac is a U.S. citizen and the operation was covered by Medicaid.

According to advocacy groups, the treatment the Sanchez family endured is typically reserved for violent gang members, drug traffickers or other high-value targets. Neither of the Sanchez’s have a criminal record. The couple’s visitors visas were issued 12 years ago and they overstayed - all four of their children are U.S citizens, protected under DACA. Mr. Sanchez works construction and landscaping jobs. 

This isn’t the first arrest that has been made in an area once thought to be safe for undocumented immigrants in the United States - hospitals, homeless shelters, churches, and courthouses. Earlier this year, agents removed and asylum seeker from a hospital - where she was being treated for a brain tumor - they placed her back in detention.  President Trump has rolled back the Obama area protections and will likely continue to pursue undocumented immigrants in these so-called “safe” places. 

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