The month of March went in like a lion and out like a lamb for a little girl from Long Island.
Four-year-old Emily Ruiz went on vacation with her grandfather on March 11 to see relatives in Guatemala and when they returned home, they were detained by customs officials after they saw he was flagged for an illegal entry in the 1990s. According to a lawyer for Emily’s family, a borders agent then gave her father two choices over the phone: She could be held at a juvenile facility in Virgina (after having flown into Washington’s Dulles airport) or go back to Guatemala with her grandfather.
Saying he feared his daughter would be put up for adoption, Leonel Ruiz chose to have her return to Guatemala.
For their part, however, Customs and Border Protection officials said their agency does not deport U.S. citizens, and Emily’s dad was told her parents could come and retrieve her.
The rub was that while Emily was born in the United States and is a citizen, her parents are undocumented immigrants and they could have been deported if they had shown up to get her.
Three weeks after she initially left for Guatemala, Emily returned home at last on March 30 after her lawyer flew to get her and bring her back to the U.S.
“We have no words to express the joy it brings us to see, hold and kiss our daughter again,” Leonel Ruiz, said today in a statement.