The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit Tuesday against the federal government for the detainment of 10-year-old Rosa Maria Hernandez.

The civil rights organization argues the girl, who lacks legal immigration status, was detained in violation of her statutory and constitutional rights. The defendants in the lawsuit, which seeks to free Rosa Maria from government custody, include the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement and Customs and Border Protection.

Rosa Maria has cerebral palsy and is being detained at a shelter for unaccompanied minors in San Antonio. She was placed in removal proceedings immediately after she was discharged from Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas, where she had undergone gall bladder surgery.

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She was transported Oct. 24 via ambulance from Laredo, Texas to Corpus Christi for the surgery. The ambulance was escorted by Customs and Border Protection agents from an immigration checkpoint in Freer, Texas. Federal agents waited outside her hospital room as she recovered.

Forcibly separating Rosa Maria from her family is causing trauma for her and her entire family — as would the sudden and forcible removal of any young child from a stable and loving family environment, an ACLU news release states.

“All of us should be outraged and alarmed that the federal government would chase a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy to a hospital, arrest her after surgery, and rip her from her loving home,” Andre Segura, legal director of the ACLU of Texas, states in the release. “This is not only unconstitutional, but heartless.”

The case was filed in federal district court in San Antonio after federal authorities failed to comply with the ACLU’s demand that Rosa Maria be released to her family by 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Alina Das of the New York University School of Law and Ranjana Natarajan of the University of Texas School of Law are co-counsel.

The civil rights organization on Monday sent a letter to several federal government officials, as well as the shelter where Rosa Maria is being held, asking that she be released to her family.

The letter is addressed to the director, acting secretary and acting assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement; Baptist Children’s Home Ministries, where Rosa Maria is being held; acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection; and the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

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