U.S.

10-Year-Old Immigrant Rosa Maria Hernandez Freed From Federal Custody

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ACLU says authorities have released the 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy who was detained in October. Rosa Maria Hernandez was brought to the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant at the age of 3. (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

Updated | Federal authorities have freed 10-year-old Rosa Maria Hernandez, who was detained by Border Patrol agents on her way out of the hospital after undergoing surgery.

Hernandez's release comes after an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit and international outrage over the detainment of Rosa Maria, who suffers from cerebral palsy.

Advocates rejoiced at her release from federal custody Friday night.

“We’re thrilled that she can go home to heal surrounded by her family's love and support,” Michael Tan, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement. “Despite our relief, Border Patrol’s decision to target a young girl at a children’s hospital remains unconscionable."

Hernandez, who is an unauthorized immigrant, was brought to the U.S. by her mother as a three-month-old. She was being transported in an ambulance from a medical center in Laredo, Texas, to the Corpus Christi-based Driscoll Children’s Hospital for gallbladder surgery on October 24, when she was stopped at an immigration checkpoint. Agents followed her and her family to the hospital.

Five armed fully uniformed agents waited outside her room until she was discharged, said Leticia Gonzalez, an immigration attorney from San Antonio.

Customs and Border Protection authorities then escorted the girl via ambulance to the Bexar County Juvenile Detention Center in San Antonio, a facility for children without her parents, according to the ACLU.

Customs and Border Patrol released a statement saying that Hernandez's detainment was part of the protocol.

"Per the immigration laws of the United States, once medically cleared she will be processed accordingly," the statement said.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of Rosa Maria demanding her release on Tuesday.

“Rosa Maria should not have been detained for even a second," Andre Segura, legal director of the ACLU of Texas, said in a statement. "She was ripped from her family without authority by the federal government." 

Hernandez had lived in Laredo, a border town, with her family for most of her life before being taken into custody. On the day of her surgery, her mother, fearful for her own detainment as an undocumented immigrant, asked one of Hernandez's cousins to take her. Hernandez's doctors had given the cousin a notarized letter to give to the agents at the checkpoint to notify them that she was taking an undocumented child to the hospital for medical attention. The child was taken by federal agents and away from her family the following evening from the hospital. 

After her detainment in October, the hashtag #FreeRosa earned viral attention online with social media users demanding for her release. On Friday, users said that their prayers for the little girl were answered.

Correction: An earlier version misidentified the name of Rosa Maria's lawyer. Her name is Leticia Gonzalez.