Lawyers urgently seeking asylum for gravely ill migrant girl in Mexican tent camp

Immigration

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — For nearly a week, Lawyers for Good Government has been petitioning for a 7-year-old girl they say is severely ill with an abdominal perforation to be granted asylum in the U.S.

Lawyers with the nonprofit organization have been appealing to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, saying the girl must be immediately evacuated from a tent encampment in Matamoros, Mexico.

“The child needs care under a pediatric surgeon,” lawyer Charlene D’Cruz told Border Report via phone on Tuesday. “We’ve been trying to work with them. We have called CBP and the CBP attorney. He claims the port authority director has discretion and yet he has chosen three times not to parole this very sick child.”

D’Cruz last week spotted the sick Honduran child in the filthy and crowded tent encampment where 2,000 asylum-seekers live at the base of the Gateway International Bridge across from Brownsville, Texas. The migrant girl is among thousands of asylum-seekers who must remain in Mexico under the Trump Administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols program, which was implemented in mid-July in South Texas.

The girl has a fistula that could become life-threatened if it becomes sepsis, D’Cruz said.

On Dec. 11, port officials allowed the girl to enter the United States and she was taken to the emergency room at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Brownsville. But D’Cruz said the child was returned that night to the Matamoros tent encampment with the fistula diagnosis.

D’Cruz said she waited for three hours on the bridge with the child on Saturday, along with doctors from the nonprofit organization Global Response Management, but port officials denied the girl and her mother entry into the United States.

Lawyers Kim Hunter, left, and Charlene D’Cruz, of the nonprofit group Lawyers for Good Government, are seen Nov. 14, 2019, giving migrants legal advise at the tent encampment in Matamoros, Mexico. (Border Report File Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

Lawyer Kim Hunter, who recently relocated from St. Paul, Minn., to work alongside D’Cruz on a six-months legal service rotation, said there is no rhyme or reason for why exemptions are or aren’t allowed.

Hunter said she, too, waited for several hours on Monday at the judicial tent city in Brownsville where the girl’s mother had a scheduled hearing before a U.S. immigration judge. Hunter said the judge, who was video streamed from Harlingen, Texas, was trying to facilitate a medical screening, but other than checking the girl for lice, she said the girl was returned to the camp without any additional medical attention.

“What we have been told is they are not exercising discretion to parole this child without any real basis for why,” D’Cruz said. “After three hours of waiting they were put back in Matamoros, into unsanitary conditions where her condition could turn septic in a New York minute.”

Doctors with the nonprofit group Global Response Management treat patients at the tent encampment Nov. 1, 2019 in Matamoros, Mexico. A 7-year-old girl was also treated at the camp last week, then sent to a U.S. hospital for fistula, but she has since been returned, her lawyers said Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019. (Border Report Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

D’Cruz said she is uncertain why this particular child is not getting the exemption, which the MPP program is supposed to provide to people with severe illnesses or disabilities. She said that since October, she has helped several migrants from the camp get immediate asylum who have presented to port authorities with serious illnesses. This included a child with sepsis, a man with sickle cell anemia, and a Salvadorian man with a feeding tube.

But this past week, D’Cruz said port authorities also have refused to grant asylum to two Cuban women — one with ovarian cancer and an older woman with toxoplasmosis, which is caused by a parasite.

CBP officials said they cannot comment on specific cases when asked about the 7-year-old girl, writing in an email: “CBP is precluded from discussing individual cases for privacy reasons. All claims are handled on a case-by-case basis.”

The official said that “migrants not otherwise amenable to MPP are turned over to ICE-ERO (Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Enforcement and Removal Operations) or HHS-ORR (Health and Human Services-Office of Refugee Resettlement) depending on the specifics of their respective cases. Those who are amenable to MPP are returned to Mexico pending their next hearing.”

In late October, D’Cruz helped to successfully parole a deaf Salvadoran woman and her three family members at the Brownsville port.

Read a Border Report story on the deaf woman being paroled.

The woman had been among 12 migrants whom Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro had attempted to help cross into the United States from Matamoros, Mexico, when he visited the area on Oct. 7. But she and the 11 others later that afternoon had all been returned to Mexico.

On Oct. 25, U.S. Customs and Border Protection paroled the woman and three family members, allowing them to legally remain in the United States while they await their asylum hearings.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.

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