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ICYMI: “Under Trump, fighting for disability rights means fighting for immigration rights”

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As we’ve highlighted, the Department of Homeland Security’s inhumane treatment of Rosa Maria Hernandez, the 10-year old undocumented child with cerebral palsy currently in detention, is not an isolated event.

In a must-read piece for the Washington Post, journalist and academic David Perry continues to ring the alarm bell about Rosa Maria and others who have been treated so cruelly and callously in the name of “immigration enforcement”:

This is not the first story of immigration law enforcement violating the sanctity of hospitals to pursue targets. Some other undocumented parents in Texas were arrested while waiting for their child’s brain surgery. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested an undocumented Iraqi man who had been serving as the bone marrow donor for his niece.

A detainee with a brain tumor was pulled from a Texas hospital. In fact, this sort of thing has happened so often this year that congressional Democrats are attacking ICE for violating its own policy on “sensitive locations.” The agency is supposed to avoid “enforcement actions at or focused on sensitive locations such as schools, places of worship and hospitals” unless there’s a threat to public safety.

None of these instances threatened public safety.

The combination of the vulnerability of these individuals and the “just following orders” excuse from immigration officials make one thing very clear: Those of us who are fighting for disability rights cannot carry out our mission in President Trump’s America without also fighting for immigration rights.

Moreover, that fight for immigration rights has to extend beyond the case of any specific disabled child. We can’t wait for the perfect charismatic victim to get involved, then move our attention onward if that case is ameliorated. I hope the public pressure saves Rosa Maria. But real change is going to require sustained work.


I’m the father of a 10-year-old boy with Down syndrome. It’s easy to imagine Rosa Maria as my son’s classmate, disappeared into a detention facility. As I watch the video of agents taking her in her hospital bed off to detention, it’s easy — indeed, it’s morally necessary — to get outraged on her behalf. But we just can’t stop there. Alas, I’ve seen far too many fellow parents of disabled children get outraged at this case without extending their focus to the deeper injustices in our immigration system.

Advocacy often begins with a single act. We need Rosa Maria back with her family. And then we must use our outrage on her behalf to see the disability rights stories embedded in immigration crackdowns and refugee crises around the world. Then we can get to work.