People Are Asking President Trump to Release This Immigrant

February 28th 2017

Thor Benson

A 26-year-old named Sara Beltran Hernandez came to the United States to seek asylum at the end of 2015, fleeing the gangs and domestic violence of El Salvador, according to Amnesty International. Now she's locked up and on the verge of death.

Hernandez has been held in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility in Texas since November 2015, despite having family members in New York who are U.S. citizens, as the government considers her asylum request. While in custody, a neurosurgeon discovered a pituitary brain tumor in her head after she collapsed earlier this month. The doctor recommended that Hernandez receive MRI scans every six weeks to monitor the tumor.

But advocates are concerned she's not getting the care she needs.

us mexican border

Amnesty International is calling for Hernandez to be released from the detention facility so she can receive proper medical care while her asylum request is reviewed. The organization is concerned that detention facilities do not have adequate medical care for a case like this. It's also not uncommon for asylum seekers to get paroled in extreme cases like this.

Justin Mazzola, an attorney and researcher at Amnesty, told ATTN: that ICE detention facilities are "notoriously under-resourced in terms of health care." He fears the facility Hernandez is in cannot properly treat her with what he describes as "basic and rudimentary" medical services in such facilities. 

crowded detention center

Amnesty points out that Hernandez wasn't picked up by ICE — she turned herself in in order to apply for asylum, which is to say: She's not a flight risk.

"Since roughly 2014 and slightly predating this, there has been a flood of both unaccompanied children as well as families, which have been coming up to the U.S.-Mexico border and basically turning themselves over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement or border patrol... seeking asylum because of the violence and instability that's taking place," Mazzola said.

To keep an asylum-seeker behind bars even when they have a brain tumor, Amnesty argues, is cruel. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for ICE to keep ill people in these detention centers.

Update (March 2, 2017): Hernandez has been released by ICE. “Sara and her family are overjoyed that she will finally be able to be with her loved ones and receive medical care after being unjustly detained for over 400 days,” Eric Ferrero of Amnesty International said in a press release.