- U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the Chicago O’Hare airport kept three minors for over 12 hours until a parent came to pick them up after the adult female they were traveling with was deemed “inadmissible” on Thursday.
- CBP told the Daily Caller News Foundation that multiple attempts were made to contact the parents of the children, and the mother told reporters she changed her plans to pick up the children in the morning because she was scared.
- Democratic officials called the situation “troubling” and referred to it as “kidnapping.”
Democratic officials called a situation in which U.S. Customs and Border Protection prevented three minors from roaming Chicago unaccompanied “kidnapping” and “troubling,” despite a law requiring the agency do so.
An “adult female” was traveling with three children, ages 9, 10 and 13, Thursday from Mexico to Chicago. The female was deemed “inadmissible” by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers, CBP told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The children were held at the Chicago O’Hare airport for more than 12 hours until a guardian picked them up. The adult female is the children’s cousin, WBEZ reported. The cousin and children’s names were not reported, and neither was the cousin’s age.
“CBP was doing everything in their power to unite these children and their parents instead of turning them over to Child Protective Services,” a CBP spokesperson told the DCNF.
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers have attempted numerous times today to reach family members to pick up the children,” a statement from CBP read, WBEZ reported. “As of 2 pm [central time] CBP Officers are still awaiting a legal guardian to arrive and pick the children up.”
The cousin was ordered to return to Mexico, and the children, all U.S. citizens, were kept by U.S. Border Patrol until a parent came to pick them up. The children were provided food and water while at the airport, CBP said, according to WBEZ reporter Maria Ines Zamudio.
CBP wrote that there were “false reports” about them “detaining 3 US citizen children,” stating that “by law, they could only be released to a parent/guardian.” (RELATED: CBP Chief Said Democratic Rhetoric Fueled Attempted Terrorist Attack On ICE Facility)
There are false reports circulating that CBP is detaining 3 US citizen children at O’Hare. The children arrived with a Mexican citizen that was deemed inadmissible. By law, they could only be released to a parent/legal guardian. Their mother has picked them up without incident.
— CBP (@CBP) July 18, 2019
“Detained has now become a word associated with migrants,” a CBP spokesperson told the DCNF. “The children were being held until a legal guardian could arrive. Minor children could not be left to the own vices.”
Democratic Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky flew to the airport to see what was going on, and said the government shouldn’t “kidnap” children, according to Zamudio.
“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,” Schakowsky said according to the Chicago Tribune. Schakowsky said that the cousin traveling with the children had a valid visa, but this was not confirmed.
“I’m going to try to go in and see why our government is acting this way to three minors that have every right to travel,” Schakowsky said. “Three citizens of the United States of America. What is going on here? This is completely out of control.”
Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker tweeted that his “administration is exploring every option to return these children to their families.”
I’m aware of the troubling reports that American children are being detained at O’Hare Airport, and my administration is exploring every option to return these children to their families. https://t.co/rQ0XYGB7A2
— Governor JB Pritzker (@GovPritzker) July 18, 2019
Rachel Maddow, a television host on MSNBC, tweeted that three girls, all U.S. citizens, were only “released after protestors showed up at the terminal with signs: “‘Let the Children Go.'”
The girls are age 9, 10, and 13. They are US Citizens.
Customs & Border Protection had been holding them at O’Hare Airport since 3AM.
Reports now that they were just released after protesters showed up at the terminal with signs: “Let the Children Go”https://t.co/53HZnbVscN
— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) July 18, 2019
The children were released when a parent came to pick them up, CBP told the DCNF.
“On the morning of July 18, a Mexican citizen arrived at Chicago O’Hare International Airport escorting three U.S. citizen children,” CBP said. “Upon arrival, CBP officers deemed the adult female inadmissible. U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers attempted numerous times to reach family members to pick up the children. At 4:00pm the mother picked up her children without incident.”
“Minors are required to be picked up by a legal guardian,” they added.
People arrived at the airport to protest the children being detained, according to Zamudio. Some activists believed that CBP was using the incident as a way to detain the parents.
“Stop ICE! Release the children now!” one sign read. Another read “Don’t make children hostages!”
More protesters gather. pic.twitter.com/Jzl7UYxSKt
— Maria Ines Zamudio (@mizamudio) July 18, 2019
Three lawyers, including Mony Ruiz-Velazco, also arrived at the airport to meet with immigration officials, as did someone from the Mexican consulate, according to Zamudio. Ruiz-Valzco said she presented a letter from the parents which gave permission for federal officials to release the children to her, but CPB did not allow her to take them. It is not known why the letter was rejected.
The children’s mother told reporters that she had been afraid to pick her children up from the airport because she was worried she would be deported. The children arrived from Mexico around 3 in the morning. The mother told reporters that she originally was going to pick them up in the morning, but became nervous.
“In the morning I said, let me go pick them up but then I realized that our rights are not respected,” she said, according to WBEZ.
A staffer with Schakowsky’s office hung up on the DCNF after the reporter identified what company she worked for. Upon calling back, the reporter left a message but did not receive a response to a request for comment.
Pritzker did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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