NEW YORK (CBS 2) — A little girl from Long Island at the center of an immigration battle returned home to Suffolk County Wednesday.
Four-year-old Emily Ruiz was back in the arms of her family at JFK Airport after being sent back to Guatemala with her grandfather.
“It was an emotional scene,” Attorney David Sperling said.
The Brentwood girl was traveling to New York from Guatemala with her grandfather two weeks ago when their flight was diverted to Dulles Airport near Washington.
Customs and border control agents stopped the two after discovering that Emily’s grandfather had tried to enter the country illegally years ago.
Emily’s family said customs officials gave the grandfather two choices: go back to Guatemala with Emily or leave her with custody officials in Virginia.
Emily’s Long Island parents are undocumented immigrants, and her father, Leonel Ruiz, chose to have Emily leave with her grandfather out of fear that she would end up in foster care.
Customs officials insist Emily’s family was given the option to pick her up in Washington but decided not to. The attorney for the Ruiz family, however, said Emily’s parents were never given that option.
“Emily is a U.S. citizen, was never given the opportunity to have legal representation or to be put in touch with the Guatemalan embassy, or some other third party, she was simply deported, I know that’s not the legal term for it but that’s in effect what happened,” Sperling said.
Sperling added “we’re going to make this right and make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
“There are over five million children here in the United states with at least one undocumented parent and four million of those are like Emily — U.S. citizen children,” attorney Jeanne Butterfield said. “We request and demand the CBP investigate the incident of Emily Ruiz and issue clear guidelines to their staff so something like this never happens again.”
Long Island Congressman Steve Israel was calling on the Department of Homeland Security to do a formal review of how this all could happen.
“This bureaucratic overreach and utter failure of commonsense has left a little girl, a U.S. citizen no less, stranded thousands of miles from her parents,” he said.
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