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Seven Year Old With Brain Tumor Being Denied Life Saving Treatment in Detention

August 31, 2014

Local Attorneys and Doctors Fighting to Save Child Refugee

(AUSTIN)— Nayely Beltran is seven years old. She has a progressive, malignant brain tumor that requires immediate treatment by a specialist. Despite pleas from her attorney and doctors, Nayely is not receiving the medical attention that could save her life because she is being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, at Karnes, a family detention facility where more than 500 refugee women and children from Central America are being held. 

Nayely and her mother, Sara Beltran-Rodriguez, fled El Salvador in July in fear for their lives due to severe violence. Sara has since passed a credible fear interview to prove her eligibility for asylum in the United States. Although she has been offered a place to stay with friends who have legal status in the United States, ICE has declined to release Nayely and her mother or set a bond despite Nayely being visibly ill and regularly wetting the bed, with no access to diapers, due to her condition.

"Sara informed immigration officials of her daughter's condition immediately after their arrival in late July,” says Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch, an Immigration attorney based in Austin who is representing Nayely and her mother pro-bono, in part, due the severity of the case. “Despite repeated attempts to communicate with Department of Homeland Security officials about the severity of Nayely's situation, I have not been contacted and she is still detained.  No one has responded to my emails or returned a call."  

Nayely's brain tumor was diagnosed and treated in El Salvador through brain surgery and chemotherapy. Unfortunately, the treatments failed. Nayely was scheduled to see a specialist for the growing brain tumor in El Salvador but the severity of the violence caused Sara to quickly flee with her daughter. Kate, with the help of Nayely’s mother, has been able to acquire Nayely's medical records and MRI. Kate had the medical documents evaluated by three U.S. trained doctors, including Dr. Simon Carlson, an Austin NeuroRadiologist trained at John Hopkins University.

"This is a case which can become life threatening in very short order, which can take a turn for the worse with little to no forewarning, with devastating outcomes," says Dr. Carlson. "Urgent care is needed for this child, and she is likely to suffer long term brain damage or worse if left to routine care without urgent specialist intervention." 

Prior to the increase of Central American refugee children coming to the United States earlier this year, Sara and Nayely would have been released from detention after passing a credible fear interview, the first step towards gaining asylum. Now, ICE releases are granted on a case-by-case basis.  

“Bond decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, based on considerations of risk of flight and public safety" said ICE spokeswoman Nina Pruneda, to the San Antonio Express News just last week. 

Yet, Kate, who has practiced immigration law for six years, says this is one of the most serious cases she has ever seen and the continued detention of a proven and gravely ill child such as Nayely is shocking.  

"ICE officials are clearly not telling the truth when they say that release is considered on a case-by-case basis if a little girl like Nayely can't even get out of jail,” says Kate. “This seems like a blanket policy issued from Washington meant to send a message that Central American refugees are not welcome in the United States. This message is contrary to who we are as a nation, what we have promised in international treaties, and downright cruel."  

Nayely is entering her second month of detention at Karnes. In the meanwhile, her tumor continues to grow while the window to provide her with critical treatment is closing.

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Contact: 

Cristina Parker, cparker@grassrootsleadership.org, (915) 497-2747 

Nora De La Rosa, nora.delarosa@gmail.com, (551-697-0196)