A 14-year-old T&T national has been detained by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, according to a local attorney. The detention has allegedly taken place in spite of pleas by her mother, attorneys and the T&T consulate in Miami. Immigration attorney Randy Depoo said the girl–whose identity he withheld–arrived in Miami on July 1, 2010, with a T&T passport and US visa, as an unaccompanied minor, on Caribbean Airlines. Depoo said that during the inspection it was determined that the girl had overstayed her visa in 2001, when her mother took her to the United States. The girl was then five years old.
The attorney further claimed that while being questioned by CBP, her aunt sought an explanation, but was told to leave. He said the child's mother was telephoned in T&T and told the girl would be permitted to stay in the US. But in a subsequent call, the mother said the child would be detained because of her prior overstay. Depoo claimed the child was first kept at a hotel and then transferred to the custody of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which sent her to an institution in Houston, Texas. He said the T&T Government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, had intervened, but with no success to date.
He said he had contacted the CBP headquarters requesting that the girl be permitted to withdraw her application for admission to the US. He said he has explained that the girl broke no law. "She simply overstayed her time as a very young child," said Depoo. He said that the girl's mother is "severely traumatised" and is "crying incessantly." Depoo said the child and mother had spoken on the phone and the young woman had begged to return home. The attorney said he was continuing to seek the family's interests.
Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Suruj Rambachan told the Guardian yesterday he had been "following up the issue on a daily basis."
Rambachan said he raised the matter at a senior level with the US authorities. The minister said he had been seeking to determine why the girl was detained rather than sent back to T&T.