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Latino Daily News

Wednesday March 30, 2011

4 Yr Old US Citizen Emily Ruiz Back On American Soil

4 Yr Old US Citizen Emily Ruiz Back On American Soil

Photo: Emily Ruiz

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Emily Ruiz, the 4-year-old U.S. citizen who was sent back to Guatemala earlier this month, is back with her family on American soil. Her family’s lawyer, David Sperling, even tweeted photos of the reunion with the caption “mission accomplished.” Meanwhile, lawmakers and lawyers are still trying to figure out exactly how, in the words of LI congressman Steve Israel, “This bureaucratic overreach and utter failure of commonsense left a little girl, a U.S. citizen no less, stranded thousands of miles from her parents.”

Emily Ruiz, who is an American citizen but whose parents are not, had been in Guatemala for five months to alleviate her asthma. When she was flying back to New York with her grandfather on March 11, customs questioned her grandfather’s visa over a two-decades-old issue. After some confusion customs agents claim they eventually told Emily’s father Lionel Ruiz, who speaks only limited English, that he could either send Emily back to Guatemala, put her in a government juvenile facility or he could come and pick her up. However, according to Sperling, that isn’t true: “The parents were not given the option to be reunited.”

Legal associates of Sperling are arguing that Emily’s parents did not send her back to Guatemala because they feared questions about their own immigration status. “If that’s the case, why would the father take his story national?” Jeanne Butterfield, a former executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, asked while pointing out that Lional Ruiz has been interviewed in the Times and on Univision. “He told the story, had his picture published. He is easily findable. I think it only buttresses the father’s credibility.”