FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Susan Watson, Attorney
Cynthia Martinez, Communications Director
NEW ORLEANS – February 21, 2009 – A mother’s quest for justice against the federal government will continue following a ruling Friday by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals stating that Monica Castro’s case against Border Patrol should not have been dismissed.
Represented by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA), the leading provider of legal aid in Texas, and Javier N. Maldonado, Castro sued the federal government after Border Patrol agents detained her one-year old daughter and then removed her to Mexico over Castro’s objections. A native of Corpus Christi, Castro and her daughter are both U. S. citizens and the child’s father was an undocumented immigrant. After a domestic dispute during which Castro left her spouse, she approached Border Patrol agents for help retrieving her daughter. The agents told her that they could take action against the child’s father but could not deport the child due to her citizenship.
However, once the child was in Border Patrol’s custody, agents refused to release her to her mother. That same afternoon federal agents transported the child from Lubbock, Texas to the Texas – Mexico border where she was handed over to Mexican officials.
It took Castro three years to find her daughter and bring her home.
“Border Patrol’s actions in this case were outrageous,” said TRLA attorney Susan Watson. “They knew they could not hold a U.S. citizen and they knew that they could not decide which parent had custody over a child, but they did it anyway.”
In February 2006, Castro filed suit against the United States due to Border Patrol’s actions. In February 2007, the Federal District Court in Corpus Christi, Texas dismissed the case, saying that the agents had the discretion to act as they did. Castro appealed this ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which released its opinion late Friday.
According to the federal appeals court, the District Court failed to consider whether the Border Patrol’s acts exceeded their scope of authority. Because the law specifies that agents may only regulate “foreign nationals illegally present in the United States,” Castro has the right to question whether Border Patrol had the authority to detain her child.
“The court reaffirmed that Border Patrol agents are bound by our laws and the Constitution,” added San Antonio private attorney Javier N. Maldonado. “If federal agents disregard the Constitution, they will be held accountable.”
Established in 1970, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. (TRLA) is a nonprofit organization that provides free legal services to low-income and disadvantaged clients in a 68-county service area. TRLA’s mission is to promote the dignity, self-sufficiency, safety and stability of low-income Texas residents by providing high-quality legal assistance and related educational services. For more information on Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. and this story visit http://www.trla.org.