Photo: California Family of Detained 5-year-old Immigrant from El Salvador Found
Consular authorities were able to contact the family in California of a 5-year-old Salvadoran girl who was detained with a group of undocumented immigrants being smuggled into Arizona.
The El Salvador consul in Arizona, Jose Joaquin Chacon, told Efe that Tuesday night they were able to contact family members of the girl, whom he chose to identify simply as “Rosita.”
A grandmother will be in charge of looking after the little girl, who was born in San Salvador and was found near Phoenix traveling with a group of 16 undocumented immigrants by deputies of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
Under Joe Arpaio, who boasts of being “America’s toughest sheriff,” the MCSO has devoted considerable resources to pursuing undocumented immigrants.
The members of the group had paid human traffickers anywhere from $300 to $3,500 to be brought into the United States illegally.
The group was detained the same day President Barack Obama announced that for now young undocumented immigrants will no longer be deported if they fulfill certain requirements, such as having entered the country prior to the age of 16.
For that reason the case won national attention when media reported that the girl had been “arrested” by Arpaio, though the MCSO said the child had never been handcuffed, but was detained with the group and handed over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Consul Chacon was planning a Wednesday visit to Rosita, who is currently in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement at a shelter for minors in El Paso, Texas.
He said he was gathering all the necessary information and documention to prove the family’s relationship with the girl, a process that could take at least a week.
“These are the shelters’ rules - perhaps the process will go quicker because of her age,” the consul said in a telephone interview.
“We can say that the girl is very lucky, because soon she’ll be back with her family,” he said.
Chacon again mentioned the countless dangers that children are exposed to when put in the hands of people traffickers to help them get across the border.
“Minors are the most vulnerable, there’s nothing in the world worth putting a child at risk, we’ve had some very serious cases of kids who die or are abused in the desert,” Chacon said.
According to ICE statistics, during the present fiscal year 1,636 unaccompanied, undocumented minors have been transferred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
The consul said that the most important thing right now is to get Rosita back with her family and that her immigration status will be decided later by the appropriate authorities.
Central American families are estimated to pay $3,000-$5,000 to bring a child into the United States illegally.