McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — U.S. Customs and Border Protection has released a 52-year-old Cuban migrant who is epileptic, blind in one eye and going blind in the other.
Before being granted parole late Monday night, the woman was in a Brownsville, Texas, hospital but in the custody of CBP, said her lawyer who had hoped officer would finally parole her into the United States.
Charlene D’Cruz, a lawyer with the nonprofit Lawyers for Good Government, said Monday that CBP officials have four times blocked the woman’s entry at the Gateway International Bridge. The woman has been living in an apartment since June in Matamoros, Mexico, where she is part of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) programthat requires migrants to remain in Mexico during their U.S. asylum proceedings.
But under the Department of Homeland Security’s MPP rules, migrants with disabilities or who are “vulnerable populations” may be exempt from the program “on a case-by-case basis.”
Since last fall, CBP has paroled several MPPs at the Gateway Bridge who prove they have medically debilitating conditions, or those that are deaf or blind, or members of the LGBTQ population who are vulnerable to persecution.
A CBP official stressed that each case is determined individually: “All claims of credible fear are handled on a case-by-case basis. Generally, those migrants not otherwise amenable to MPP are turned over to ICE-ERO or HHS-ORR depending on the specifics of their respective cases. Those who are amenable to MPP are returned to Mexico pending their next hearing. Unaccompanied alien children and aliens in expedited removal proceedings will not be subject to MPP. Other individuals from vulnerable populations may be excluded on a case-by-case basis,” the official wrote in an email.
D’Cruz told Border Report the woman has family in Miami, where she is expected to go.
D’Cruz said that the woman has toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that has destroyed her right retina and caused her total blindness in that eye. She said that the woman’s vision in her left eye is rapidly deteriorating and she is unable to walk the streets of the northern Mexico border town unassisted, or seek medical care or food without help.
“There’s no treatment in Matamoros and they’re saying she has to go to Mexico City to get medical attention,” D’Cruz said. “But that would require her court dates to be further delayed and she doesn’t want that. She has already been waiting for seven months.”
On Dec. 11, CBP agents allowed the woman to seek emergency medical help from a Brownsville hospital. That was the same time that D’Cruz also helped a gravely ill 7-year-old girl with an abdominal condition across the bridge. But D’Cruz said after she was treated for pain in the emergency department agents returned the blind woman back to Matamoros.
In addition, the woman also is epileptic and most recently had seizures on Jan. 16, D’Cruz said.
On Friday, D’Cruz said she waited with the woman on the bridge for two hours, and again for an hour on Saturday with no luck.
She returned on Monday morning but they were again denied, said Joshua Rubin, whose organization has been protesting in Brownsville at a park across from the bridge for the release of all migrants in the MPP program.
On Monday afternoon, however, CBP officials called the woman back and took her to a Brownsville hospital, D’Cruz said.
“We fight for everybody and she’s an exception for medical reasons. Our concern is to get everybody across. Obviously a woman who is going blind for taxoplasmosis should be allowed to cross. It is heart wrenching,” Rubin said.
U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, a Democrat whose district includes Brownsville, had his office send an email to CBP officials requesting she be paroled in the United States, Vela’s office said.
Border Report will update this story with information when it becomes available.
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