An undocumented couple agreed to be taken into custody and then deported if Border Patrol allowed them to take their seriously sickened child to the hospital for a life-saving surgery.
Irma and Oscar Sanchez’s 2-month-old son, Isaac, had been diagnosed with pyloric stenosis. The condition exposes infants to severe weight loss caused by vomiting and dehydration, which could turn fatal if not treated.
In Rio Grande Valley, where the couple lives with their four children, none of the local hospitals had a pediatric surgery team capable of performing the operation that could cure the life-threatening condition. So, a nurse told them that if they wanted their child to get the care he required, they would have to travel to Corpus Christi.
But going that far was dangerous, as there was a Border Patrol checkpoint on the way, and they said they knew they would be targeted because of their immigration status.
As they discussed the pros and cons of heading to Corpus Christi for the surgery in a Harlingen, Texas, hospital, a Border Patrol agent showed up. They said they believe the nurse who told them they had to travel for the procedure was the one who notified officials about their situation.
“The nurse told us we had to go there,” the father told reporters. “We said we couldn’t go.”
The agent then told the couple that if they agreed to be arrested and placed in deportation proceedings after arriving at the Corpus Christi hospital, agents would allow them to travel there along with their child and an escort.
The couple eventually agreed to the plan.
After an ambulance carried the baby through Texas to Corpus Christi, officers followed the couple during the entire process, even whenever Irma Sanchez had to breastfeed her infant son.
“Everywhere we went in the hospital, they followed us,” Oscar Sanchez said.
The next morning, both parents were taken into custody separately.
The surgery was eventually delayed so both parents could be present for the procedure. Still, advocates said they are amazed that a couple with no criminal record was treated this way.
“That’s how you treat criminals that are harmful, and that’s understandable for our own protection,” advocate Ana Hinojosa, who’s with the immigrant rights advocacy group Mennonite Central Committee, told reporters. “But they’re a family that’s just here trying to make a living, provide an education and a future for their children.”
The Sanchezes may have been undocumented, but they did not enter the country illegally. Instead, they overstayed their visitor visas, which were issued 12 years ago. They have lived, worked, and raised their children in the meantime. During this time, Oscar Sanchez works construction and landscaping jobs while Irma Sanchez is a stay-at-home mom.
"I can't pretend to understand any reasoning that would have led anyone up the chain of command to think that Irma and Oscar were flight risks or dangers to the community or in any other way people who needed to be followed into a hospital in order to be placed in deportation proceedings," National Immigrant Justice Center lawyer Lisa Koop said.
Koop is now working on the case and will ask an immigration judge to allow the Sanchezes to stay in the United States with their children in December.
This violation of basic human decency from everyone involved shows just how President Donald Trump’s boosting of agencies, like Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Border Control, and his xenophobic rhetoric have severely impacted countless lives.
Families who have never committed a crime are now under stress, and many have been ripped apart by the president’s new policies. It’s time for Congress to step up and work on a real solution to this problem, rallying the public in a more effective way against these inhumane practices.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Romeo Ranoco