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U.S. Government Defends Deportation of Four-Year-Old Citizen

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 (This photograph is protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. Licensing requests should be sent to photosales@nytimes.com.)

The U.S. government is defending the recent deportation of a four-year-old little girl who was born in the United States to undocumented immigrants.

On March 11th, despite her citizenship, Emily Samantha Ruiz was deported after officials detained her grandfather while the two were on their way back from a trip to Guatemala visiting relatives.

The pair landed in Dulles International Airport in Washington D.C. to board a connecting flight to New York City from Guatemala. It was here that the grandfather was stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection for an immigration infraction that occurred in the 1990’s.

Then, according to Univision, the grandfather was detained, leaving the four-year-old girl alone at the airport. Meanwhile, Emily’s parents arrived at a New York City airport to pick up their loved ones, but to their surprise their little girl and the grandfather were not on the plane.

The parents' lawyer, David Sperling, told the NY Daily News that when her father spoke to a U.S. agent, he was given two choices: Emily could be sent to a juvenile facility in Virginia or returned to Guatemala with her grandfather.

Fearing foster care, the parents picked the latter option. According to reports, they have been trying to get her back ever since.

In the first public comments after the incident, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) defended the decision to deport the little girl, as well as her grandfather.

“CBP strives to reunite children who are citizens with their parents. If the parents decide not to take custody of their children, the CBP works with other agencies to guard the security and the well-being of these children. That includes handing them over to other families,” spokesman Lloyd Easterling told EFE.

“In this case, Emily’s parents were offered the opportunity to pick her up, but they decided to have her return to Guatemala with her grandfather,” Easterling explained.

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