Congressmen help migrant girl with Down syndrome get into US

RUSSELL CONTRERAS

A delegation from the U.S. Congressional Hispanic Caucus helped a 6-year-old migrant girl with Down Syndrome and a heart condition get paroled in the United States on Friday, members of the caucus said.

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-New Mexico, said he and other members accompanied the girl to a Port of Entry in Brownsville, Texas, and asked federal immigration authorities to allow the girl into the country to seek medical treatment. The girl and her Salvadoran family had previously been denied entry. She, her mother and her brother has been placed in Mexico to await rulings that would decide their eligibility.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Luján said he and Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, stayed behind with the girl and her family as the delegation crossed back into the U.S. after a tour of migrant camps in Matamoros, Mexico. After speaking with the Department of Homeland Security officials, the girl and her family were allowed into the U.S.

There are exemption for vulnerable people in place the Trump administration's “Remain in Mexico” policy for migrants seeking asylum.

Luján said he was disturbed that it took members of Congress to get someone like the girl paroled into the U.S. as allowed by law. “If someone like her isn't vulnerable, I don't know who is,” Luján said.

Castro tweeted: “We were able to get a young girl with a heart defect and Down’s Syndrome allowed into the United States with her family while their asylum claim is considered,"

A spokesman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not immediately return an email and phone message seeking comment

The Hispanic congressional leaders had gone to Matamoros on Friday to tour the conditions in migrant camps.

Luján and Castro said they found inhumane conditions and human right violations there.

“The migrants were living in makeshift shelters made of old trash bags, old tarps, and cardboard,” Luján said. “Their clothing was being washed in the river and hung on bushes to dry.”

Castro tweeted that migrant children were living in squalor with no running water.

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Russell Contreras is a member of The Associated Press' race and ethnicity team. Follow him on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/russcontreras