Four-year-old, Emily Ruiz, the American citizen daughter of illegal Guatemalan immigrants was finally returned to the United States on Wednesday, March 30 after an almost three-week ordeal. Almost three weeks prior, on March 11, the little girl was returning to the United States with her grandfather after spending the winter in Guatemala. The airplane, scheduled to arrive at JFK, was diverted to Dulles International Airport in DC due to bad weather. While at Dulles, Emily’s grandfather was detained by immigration authorities and told he would not be able to stay in the United States because of an immigration infraction twenty years ago. When the plane finally arrived at JFK, Emily was not on it. Due to an immigration infraction twenty years ago, Emily’s grandfather was told by authorities in DC that he was unable to stay in the country. This left the family with very limited options. According to her father, Leonel Ruiz, he was told that because of his status as an illegal immigrant, Emily would either be placed in the custody of the State of Virginia, or sent back to Guatemala with her grandfather. Fearful that his daughter would be adopted if placed with the Government, Mr. Ruiz decided it would be best for Emily to go back to Guatemala.
This case highlights many of the problems with our current immigration system and has infuriated immigration attorneys and reform advocates. Section 1, Clause 1 of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution states that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States … are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” Emily was born on Long Island and is a resident of the State of New York, however, according to Mr. Ruiz’s attorney, she was treated as a second-class citizen. Thankfully, this little girl was reunited with her family, but what about others who have not been so lucky?