Despite being an American citizen, a four-year-old girl was subjected to de facto deportation to Guatemala last week with her parents left helpless on Long Island, according to her family and a lawyer representing them.
Emily Samantha Ruiz was returning to Brentwood after a vacation to Guatemala with her grandfather when their flight was rerouted to Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC. Her grandfather ran into immigration problems at the airport related to an infraction incurred in the 1990s, and the pair never made it back to Long Island.
When her father, Leonel Ruiz, finally tracked her down, he learned that she was in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Ruiz spoke with an official despite a language barrier—Ruiz speaks some English, the official did not speak Spanish—and he says that the official gave him two options: Place Emily in a children’s facility in Virginia or send her back to Guatemala with her grandfather, who was being deported.
He chose to keep her with her grandfather. Over the past few days, Emily's story has attracted national media attention and Long Island Congressman Steve Israel has pledged to reunite Emily and her parents, and hold customs officials accountable.
Sign the petition to reunite Emily with her family and demand that the Department of Homeland Security establish clear guidelines to keep this from happening to any other child.
- Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, White House
- Secretary of Homeland Security
- Assistant Director, ICE
I am writing out of deep concern over what happened to four-year-old Emily Samantha Ruiz, who was wrongly shipped off to Guatemala despite being a US citizen. In addition to immediately reuniting her with her parents in Brentwood, NY, I urge you to launch a thorough investigation into this incident and establish clear guidelines to prevent this from ever happening again.
Emily is far from the only U.S. citizen child at risk of this kind of separation from her family. Nearly 4 million citizen children have at least one undocumented parent, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, and unless new guidelines are put into place, there is nothing to prevent US Customs and Border Patrol from reenacting this deplorable situation.
Again, I urge you immediately reunite Emily and her family, and I ask that you establish clear guidelines so that parents and their US citizen children will never be put in this terrible situation again.
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