ACLU to federal government: 'Free Rosa' or 'see you in court'

Child's supporters voice concerns to Sen. John Cornyn's staff

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SAN ANTONIO – The American Civil Liberties Union is fighting on behalf of an undocumented child with cerebral palsy, days after she was picked up by the U.S. Border Patrol after emergency surgery.

In its demand letter to Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, the ACLU said in essence, “Free Rosa or see you in court.”

Rosa Maria Hernandez, a 10-year-old with cerebral palsy, was picked up by U.S. Border Patrol agents last week after emergency gallbladder surgery at Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi. She is now in a federally-sponsored shelter in San Antonio.

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“If you do not comply with this demand by 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017, we will take immediate legal action and pursue all available remedies under the law to secure Rosa Maria’s release,” wrote Michael K.T. Tan, ACLU staff attorney and Andre I. Segura, legal director of the ACLU Foundation in Texas.

The ACLU’s letter comes within hours of a small, but vocal “Free Rosa Rally” Monday outside the downtown offices of U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. The group of about 25 protesters did get the chance to meet with two of Cornyn’s staff behind closed doors for less than hour.

Several Democratic members of Congress have released statements, including Rep. Henry Cuellar, who said in part, "I am continuing to look into this matter and will work to make sure her safety comes first. I understand that CBP has a tremendous duty to protect our nation but we should be devoting our resources and focus on bigger threats.” But Shannon Perez with Tx21 Indivisible said Cornyn, a leading Republican, has been silent about the handling of Rosa Maria’s case.

“This has been going on for days and he has not made a statement,” Perez said.

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KSAT also asked for a response, but the only statement by his spokeswoman was, “It’s our policy to always meet Texans who have requested an in-office meeting, like they did today.”

However, Perez said her group, while protesting other issues in the past, has been met with locked doors or told to come back with fewer people.

But Monday, as protesters filed into the foyer of Cornyn’s office, they were met with handshakes. Those who voiced their concerns, said two Cornyn staff members took notes and said the information would be forwarded to the senator.

Perez said she and other protesters told his staff they expected to hear from him by the end of the business day, but as of 7 p.m., she said they’d heard nothing.

“I’d like hear John Cornyn cares about Rosa Maria and wants to see her free,” Perez said.

Irasena Cavazos of Domesticas Unidas, who was in the meeting with Cornyn’s staff, said, “We are outraged and we want Cornyn to step up for morality, for humanity’s sake, for what’s the right thing to do. This is not what America stands for.”

Demand Letter Regarding Rosa Maria Hernandez

About the Author:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.