The incident with 10-year-old Rosa Maria Hernandez is resulting in verbal attacks against Border Patrol agents and the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) calls upon Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to clarify the facts surrounding the issue to the public.
On October 24, 2017, at approximately 3:30 a.m. Rosa Maria Hernandez (10 yrs. old) and her adult cousin, were on their way to Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas. Rosa Maria and her cousin were traveling from Laredo, Texas, in a four-door sedan via Highway 59. The four-door sedan Rosa Maria and her cousin were traveling in was a non-ambulance/contracted private medical transport. Rosa Maria was traveling to Driscoll Children’s Hospital for a scheduled gallbladder surgery.
All vehicles traveling northbound on Highway 59 are required to stop at the Freer Border Patrol checkpoint for an immigration inspection of all occupants. The Freer Border Patrol checkpoint is located approximately 43 miles east of Laredo, Texas.
Once at the Freer Border Patrol checkpoint, an immigration inspection was conducted on Rosa Maria, her cousin, and the contracted driver of the four-door sedan -- as is policy for all occupants of vehicles traveling through the checkpoint. During the immigration inspection, it was determined that Rosa Maria was a citizen of Mexico and was illegally in the country. Rosa Maria was not traveling with her legal guardian and was determined to be an unaccompanied minor, as parents or guardians were not with her. In cases involving unaccompanied minors, Border Patrol agents are required by law to take steps to safeguard the welfare of the children they encounter while performing their official duties. This largely stems from the high incidence of human trafficking associated with unaccompanied minors and the porous U.S.-Mexico border.
Border Patrol agents conducting the immigration inspection on the occupants of the four-door sedan were notified that Rosa Maria had a 6:30 am appointment for gallbladder surgery in Corpus Christi, Texas. At no time were Border Patrol agents notified that Rosa Maria had cerebral palsy. After being delayed for approximately 15 minutes at the Freer Border Patrol Checkpoint, the four-door sedan with Rosa Maria, her cousin, and the contracted driver were escorted to Corpus Christi, Texas, by Border Patrol agents so that the unaccompanied minor could receive needed healthcare. Rosa Maria arrived at Driscoll Children’s Hospital with sufficient time for hospital staff to perform the scheduled gallbladder surgery.
In order to ensure Rosa Maria’s well-being, she was referred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, as required by law.
Misconceptions about this matter have thrived in a media environment that too often engages in knee-jerk criticisms and attacks on law enforcement personnel. The Border Patrol's parent agency, CBP, could offer clarification on the facts instead of sitting silently as Border Patrol agents are criticized for the very false perceptions that CBP silence has allowed to grow.
Border Patrol agents performed their duties professionally and followed the laws that U.S. Congress passed and leaves in place. The NBPC calls not only on CBP to publicly clarify the facts around the issue, but also upon others in society to direct their frustrations toward the actual lawmakers in Congress for laws that upset them -- not toward the law enforcement personnel who follow and enforce the laws.