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Customs and Border Protection’s latest arrest has furious immigration advocates up in arms

Customs and Border Protection’s latest arrest has furious immigration advocates up in arms

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As Donald Trump refuses to commit to a peaceful acceptance of the results of the upcoming presidential election, the authoritarian threat to our nation’s democracy has never been clearer.

Anyone who has been paying attention to this president’s transformation of the Department of Homeland Security into his personal army designed to remove those Trump considers undesirables or illegal has seen this turn of events coming for a long time.

Now come reports that the DHS’s Customs and Border Protection division has taken a fifteen-year-old girl straight from her San Antonio hospital bed into an ICE detention center after she sought emergency treatment, in a move that is designed to scare undocumented immigrants from ever seeking necessary medical care.

The intimidation of these undocumented residents could possibly further the spread of COVID-19 by discouraging anyone with questionable immigration status from seeking tests and leaving them in their communities spreading the virus unknowingly if they are asymptomatic.

Sarah Valdez, the attorney for the unnamed minor now in custody, gave the details of her client’s arrest to CBS News.

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The Mexican-born teenager went to a hospital in Edinburg, Texas accompanied by her aunt last week after she started feeling pain in her gall bladder. A quick examination revealed that she needed surgery that would be best performed at a different hospital in San Antonio.

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Unfortunately, in between the Edinburg medical facility and the San Antonio hospital, a Customs and Border Protection checkpoint had been set up on the highway. Without proper citizenship documents, the girl and her aunt were prevented from heading straight to the scheduled surgery.

Instead, they arrested the aunt and sent CBP agents to the first hospital in Edinburg to gather emergency medical documents that would allow the 15-year-old to pass the checkpoint and head to her emergency medical procedure. In the doublespeak of immigration authorities, the CBP spokesperson said that agency was merely following the law to “process her and her aunt consistent with their immigration status.”

“There are protocols in place with area medical facilities to prevent delays or the detention of individuals traveling through the checkpoints to seek emergency medical care,” CBP said in a statement.

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Separated from her arrested family member, the girl was eventually taken to the San Antonio hospital and was taken into surgery, but a CBP guard was posted outside her room to guard her after her medical procedure was completed.

According to CBS News:

“After the surgery, the 15-year-old girl, who found herself in a hospital without an accompanying adult family member, was taken into CBP custody and designated an unaccompanied migrant child. U.S. anti-trafficking law requires all government agencies, including CBP, to transfer undocumented minors classified as unaccompanied to the U.S. refugee agency, which holds children in shelters and other housing facilities.

With both the aunt and the girl now in separate ICE detention facilities, the Trump administration is continuing to split families and has detained a young girl who has spent the vast majority of her life in the United States to be returned to Mexico, a country that she doesn’t know at all. All of this comes because once CBP arrested her aunt, the girl became an unaccompanied minor immigrant and was subject to the same regulations as a child who crossed the border alone yesterday, not after years of living in the U.S.

“It’s a reiteration of family separation,” said Valdes, a lawyer for the Texas-based Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES). “She’s only unaccompanied because they showed up at the hospital and they arrested her adult family member,” the attorney told CBS News.

If this all wasn’t bad enough, the 15-year-old tested positive for coronavirus while in the hospital and is likely now infecting other detainees at the facility where she was brought.

The girl’s parents, who are also undocumented, are in the U.S. but can’t come forward to help their daughter with her unaccompanied status without suffering the same fate as the girl and her aunt.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

— Martin Niemöller

The only way to avoid more stories like this from filling the news is to ensure Donald Trump’s defeat by an enormous margin in this election.

Go out and vote for Joe Biden and a straight Democratic ticket as soon as you are legally able to do so in your state.

Stop the madness!

Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter. 

Original reporting by Camilo Montoya-Galvez at CBS News.

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