Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Emily Ruiz, 4-year-old American sent to Guatemala by U.S. immigration, reunited with NY family

Originally found here.

BY Mark Morales AND Erica Pearson

Wednesday, March 30th 2011, 1:40 PM

A 4-year-old girl sent to Guatemala by immigration officials even though she's a U.S. citizen has returned to her parents on Long Island.

Emily Ruiz was reunited with her family almost three weeks after she was sent packing with her grandfather while returning to the U.S. from a vacation.

"We have no words to express the joy it brings us to see, hold and kiss our daughter again," her father, Leonel Ruiz, said Wednesday in a statement.

"We are very happy because we were away from her for so long, without being able to see or hold her."
Wearing her little Dora the Explorer backpack, Emily flew back Tuesday after her family's lawyer flew to Guatemala to retrieve her.

"She's a lovely beautiful child. She never gave us a problem," said the lawyer, David Sperling. "Emily was super happy to see her family.

"It's a happy ending."

Emily, who was born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrants, had initially traveled to Guatemala with her grandpa, Luis, to see relatives.

When they came back, officials at Washington's Dulles Airport flagged an illegal entry from the 1990s and detained the grandfather.

By Sperling's account, a border agent gave Emily's dad two choices over the phone: she could be held at juvenile facility in Virginia or go back to Guatemala with her grandfather.

Ruiz maintains he was never told he could come get Emily and was worried she would be given up for adoption, so chose to have her return to Guatemala on March 11.

Customs and Border Protection officials have said that the agency does not deport U.S. citizens and that her parents were told they could pick her up.

Emily's parents ran the risk of being deported themselves if they showed up to get Emily.