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San Antonio Express News | Border Patrol officials say they had no choice but to detain 10-year-old girl; immigration experts say they have discretion

LAREDO — Josefina Peña says her detention by the Border Patrol after undergoing surgery mirrors that of a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy whose case has garnered national attention.

Peña, 60, who’s from Mexico but lives in Laredo, said agents detained her after she left a San Antonio hospital. Rosa Maria Hernandez, who’s also from Mexico, spent 10 days in government custody in San Antonio and was unexpectedly released Friday and returned to her family in Laredo. Agents detained her after the girl underwent surgery in a Corpus Christi hospital.

Peña’s lawyer, Ricardo De Anda, said similar issues are at play in his client’s case.

“If they don’t have discretion to let somebody like Josefina through, or Rosa Maria, if they don’t have the discretion to allow for the safe passage of someone in an emergency situation, then all bets are off,” De Anda said. “It’s absolutely open season … on anybody who lives on this side (south) of the checkpoint. If they don’t think you’re an American citizen, you’re going to get thrown in jail. Even if you’re suffering from a medical condition, even if you’re disabled and even if you’re a child.”

Ricardo de Anda