Proponents of the Arizona approach to immigration reform like to argue that it is easy to tell the difference between those who are in this country illegally from U.S. citizens. They should try telling that to Monica Castro.
After a violent fight with the father of her young daughter, Castro, a fourth-generation American citizen, fled to the local Border Patrol station. There she said she would provide the agents information about her daughter’s father, a Mexican who was in the country illegally, if the agents would help her get back her daughter.
Castro provided agents the information they requested and, in the raid that ensued, federal agents seized, then deported, her daughter Rosa. Rosa, like her mother, is an American citizen. At the time of her deportation Rosa was only a year old.
It would be three years before Ms. Castro would see her daughter again.
Despite frantic pleas and legal action the U.S. government was little help to Ms. Castro in locating her daughter. All immigration authorities told the distraught mother was that her daughter had been sent to Juarez, Mexico along with the girl’s father–who Castro was trying to protect Rosa from.
It wasn’t until the girl’s father was once again arrested for entering the country illegally that Ms. Castro had any hope of recovering her daughter. As part of his plea arrangement he agreed to return Rosa.
Castro’s situation has garnered a lot of attention as a perfect descriptor of all that is wrong with immigration enforcement. Federal agents acted rashly and with incomplete information. Castro, a U.S. citizen, was treated with suspicion and derision because of her Latino heritage. The judicial system ignored her pleas along every step of the way.
When pressed for an explanation as to why immigration agents made the hasty decision to deport Castro’s daughter their response strained credibility. According to the government, it would have been far to costly to figure out little Rosa’s citizenship status prior to deportation. When asked to quantify just how much it would cost, immigration officials put the total at about $200.
That’s right. The United States government deported a U.S. citizen, separated her from her birthmother for three years, just to save a couple hundred bucks.
Castro has petitioned the United States Supreme Court to take up her case, arguing that the border patrol agents should not take the place of family courts in making custody determinations.
photo courtesy of Barnaby via Flickr
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