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4-year-old born in U.S. sent back to Guatemala by border patrol

A 4-year-old American citizen recently traveled to Guatemala with her grandfather. The grandfather was traveling on a U.S. employment visa. The girl was born in the United States. She has a valid American passport. Her father was waiting at the airport to pick up his father and daughter after their return trip from Guatemala. Unfortunately, bad weather diverted the plane to a different airport.

When the plane landed in the United States, customs officials reviewed the grandfather and 4-year-old documents. Immigration officials say they discovered an immigration infraction on the grandfather's record dating back roughly two decades ago. Immigration determined the grandfather would not be allowed to remain in the country due to the infraction.

The immigration issue became worse, due in part to the plane being diverted to a second airport. Immigration reportedly contacted the 4-year-old girl's father, who reportedly is not in the country legally. Immigration and the father have differing stories about what happened when the two communicated with each other.

Immigration officials claim they told the father he could pick up his child at the airport. Customs officials say the father "elected to have her return to Guatemala with her grandfather." The father, on the other hand says immigration officials gave home the choice to let the girl return to Guatemala, or be taken into the custody of the state.

He says they did not offer him the opportunity to pick her up at the airport. He feared that, because he is undocumented, his daughter would be put up for adoption. He says he agreed to have the 4-year-old sent back to Guatemala with her grandfather. He said he was preparing to pick up his daughter, but immigration did not offer that solution. "If we had to go there, we would have gone there," he says.

The matter has raised a heated debate with federal officials as the parents are currently trying to have their daughter, an American citizen, brought back to her own country.

Source: The New York Times, "U.S. Returns Young Girl, a Citizen, to Guatemala," 22 Mar 2011

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