Lawyers had asked a federal judge last week to stop the U.S. government from deporting the family. U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez did not rule on their request prior to Tuesday, the day the government had said it intended to remove the mother and her two children, ages 1 and 6, under a plan to send families to different countries so they can seek asylum elsewhere.
The 1-year-old was diagnosed with the flu, while the 6-year-old had diarrhea and a fever, according to Dr. Amy Cohen, executive director of the immigrant advocacy group Every Last One. Cohen says the children fell sick while in U.S. Customs and Border Protection Custody after the family crossed the border without authorization in December.
Both children were hospitalized over the weekend. In a court filing, government lawyers said the infant was being monitored to ensure she could be deported. Cohen said Tuesday that the children were released from the hospital Monday and a nurse had certified they could travel. According to Cohen, the family was flown to Guatemala and is now staying at a shelter in Guatemala City. They will have to request asylum in Guatemala or leave the country immediately.
“The cruelty was beyond the pale — not only in the removal itself but also in the details of the treatment of this mother and her small children," she said. CBP did not respond to several requests for comment on the case.
President Donald Trump's administration reached a deal last year with Guatemala to take in asylum-seekers from Honduras and El Salvador. It has since said it will send Mexican asylum seekers to Guatemala as well. The U.S. has also announced similar agreements with Honduras and El Salvador.
The Trump administration says the deals, known as asylum cooperative agreements, allow migrants from Central America to “seek protection within the region," even though thousands of people flee El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras annually due to endemic poverty, crime, and political or religious persecution. The American Civil Liberties Union and other legal groups have sued to try to prevent the agreements from being enforced.
As of last week, at least 115 people originally from Honduras and El Salvador had been sent by the U.S. to Guatemala.
This story has been corrected to show that the 1-year-old child was diagnosed with the flu, not the 6-year-old.
Associated Press journalist Sonia Perez D. in Guatemala City contributed to this report.