Feds release 7-year-old immigrant girl with cancer for treatment

September 3, 2014
Houston Chronicle

After weeks of delay and an uproar from immigrant advocates, federal authorities agreed Wednesday to release a 7-year-old Salvadoran girl with cancer, and her mother, from a detention center in Karnes City so the child can get treatment.

When Nayely Bermudez Beltran and her mother, Sara Beltran Rodriguez, fled violence in El Salvador and in July came to the United States, they immediately told Customs and Border Protection officers that the girl needed medical attention for a brain tumor, Beltran said Wednesday.

The violence was so severe - and threats constant to Beltran and her daughter - that they had to scrap plans for additional treatment for Nayely in their home country, Beltran told the Express-News shortly after their release.

But mother and daughter were later transferred to the Karnes County Residential Center, without any treatment despite the facility having medical staff and equipment and the mother making repeated requests.

Although Nayely was offered a place to stay with friends who have legal status in the United States, immigration authorities initially declined to release the girl and her mother or set bail, according to advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, which helped publicize their case. Meanwhile, Nayely was visibly ill and regularly wetting the bed due to her condition, her mother said.

"We were waiting for a month, and no one would do anything," Beltran said. "I felt anguished. I would pray to God to send me someone for help. He listened to my prayers."