March 24, 2011 View Discussion
by Ted Hesson
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 this petition to show your support for Emily and ask that Rep. Israel push for an administrative change to prevent this from happening again.