Three young sisters, all of them U.S. citizens, were detained by Customs and Border Protection officers at O’Hare Airport for 13 hours Thursday after traveling with a cousin from Mexico, Chicago’s WGN reported.
The girls, 9, 10, and 13, were stopped around 3 a.m. CT at the airport. Their cousin is not a U.S. citizen, but had all the necessary paperwork to be let into the country.
Yet, according to a CBP spokesperson, the adult relative with the girls was deemed “inadmissible,” WGN reported. The children were then detained.
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers attempted numerous times [Thursday] to reach family members to pick up the children,” the spokesperson said.
The Chicago Tribune reported the Mexican consulate helped reach an agreement allowing the girls’ mother, who is not a U.S. citizen, to pick up her daughters at 4:30 p.m. CT.
The CBP spokesperson said the kids were given food and drinks during their detainment.
The girls’ mother said her daughters had traveled to Mexico, their first trip there, with a relative — and she feared her own detention if she went to retrieve the girls.
She told the Tribune she has applied for legal status.
“I was really scared, but I reacted and thought, we have rights, and I called the Mexican Consulate,” she told the outlet in Spanish. “I thank God I made that decision.”
The family’s lawyer, Mony Ruiz-Velasco, of PASO West Suburban Action Project, said it should not have taken such effort for the youngsters to be released.
Ruiz-Velasco said he got a notarized letter signed by their mother allowing him to take the girls home, but said officials still did not release the girls.
“I feel that it’s a kind of kidnapping of children by our government, and I’m really fed up with what we are doing,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., the Tribune reported.
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