WASHINGTON, DC – A 4-year-old U.S. citizen who was unable to enter into the country this month because of a possible communications mix-up will attempt the journey again on Tuesday.
“It’s a grave injustice that she has been separated from her parents for so long and we’re here to rectify that situation,” said lawyer David Sperling, in Guatemala City, Guatemala, on Monday. “Tomorrow, she’s going to New York.”
Emily Ruiz, the daughter of Guatemalan immigrants living in New York without documentation, had spent five months recuperating from asthma while visiting with her grandparents in Guatemala, Sperling said. When her grandfather accompanied her on a flight back to the United States on March 11, he was stopped by a customs official at Dulles International Airport in suburban Virginia for an immigration violation dating back some 20 years, the lawyer said.
He was denied entry into the United States, and that placed Emily in the middle of an immigration quagmire. According to her family, immigration officials gave her parents two options: Emily could be sent to Guatemala with her grandfather, or she could be turned over to state custody. She returned to Central America.
“She was basically deported to Guatemala, not in the legal sense, but effectively this is what happened,” Sperling said. “We’re not here to criticize the government; really, we do not know who is responsible for this.”
A spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday night.
Officials say they gave Emily’s father the opportunity to pick her up, because she is a U.S. citizen. The father, who speaks limited English, said he did not understand if that was indeed offered.