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Lawsuit: CBP Unlawfully Deported American Toddler

March 14, 2013 (1 min read)

Ruiz v. USA, Filing date:  3/8/13

"On March 11, 2011, E.R., a four-year-old U.S. citizen, was detained by Customs and Border Protection following her arrival at Dulles Airport.  E.R. was returning home to New York from a vacation in Guatemala with her grandfather, when her flight was diverted from JFK to Dulles airport due to bad weather.  While E.R. was admitted with her U.S. passport, her grandfather was directed to secondary inspection due to an issue with his immigration paperwork.  CBP detained E.R. with her grandfather for the next 20 plus hours, gave her only a cookie and soda during the entire time, and provided her nowhere to nap other than the cold floor.

Although CBP agents had the phone number of E.R’s parents, they failed to contact them for nearly 14 hours, and repeatedly refused her grandfather’s requests to be allowed to call them.  E.R.’s father was frantic with worry this entire time. When CBP eventually did contact E.R.’s father, the agent promised to send E.R. to JFK as soon as arrangements could be made to do so, but also asked for identifying information about her parents.  Hours later, CBP called again, and this time claimed that CBP could not return E.R. to “illegals.”  The CBP agent gave E.R.’s father an hour to decide whether she should be sent back to Guatemala or to an “adoption center” in Virginia.  Fearing that he would otherwise lose custody of his daughter, E.R.’s father decided that the only viable option was for her to return to Guatemala.  CBP agents put E.R. and her grandfather on the next flight to Guatemala.

E.R. was finally able to return home nearly three weeks later, after her father hired a local attorney to fly to Guatemala to retrieve her.  Back in the United States, E.R. was diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder by a child psychologist, who concluded that the PTSD was a result of her detention, her separation from her parents, and her perception that she had been deported because her father did not pick her up from the airport.  E.R.’s father seeks damages on her behalf for her unlawful treatment." - AIC, Mar. 2013

Counsel: Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, LLP,  American Immigration Council

Contact: Melissa Crow l American Immigration Council l 202-507-7523 l