Chicago [USA]: Immigration officials on Thursday (local time) detained three children, all US citizens, at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport for 13 hours when they were travelling with a relative from Mexico.
The three girls — aged 13, 10 and nine, respectively, had arrived in Chicago at 3 am (local time) and were detained when the relative was deemed “inadmissible” by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), according to local media reports.
The detention came even after the man, who is not a US citizen, had the necessary paperwork to legally enter the country.
Officials said that they tried “numerous times” to reach the girls’ parents, but were fearful of picking them up owing to detention and deportation.
The parents, who are Mexican nationals, are undocumented immigrants.
“US Customs and Border Protection Officers attempted numerous times today to reach family members to pick up the children,” the spokesperson told The Hill.
The mother picked up her daughters at around 4 pm (local time) “without incident”, after an official from the Mexican Consulate assured her that she would not be detained.
The children were given refreshments before they were released when their mother arrived at the airport.
The mother said that her daughters had travelled to Mexico for the first time with the relative.
Some demonstrators at the airport staged a protest against the detention of the girls, claiming that it was a bait by the immigration officials to arrest the parents’ of the minors.
The incident was condemned by the Democrats with Chicago Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky calling it a “kidnapping”.
“I feel that it’s a kind of kidnapping of children by our government. I am really fed up with what we are doing,” she said after receiving word about the detention.
The incident comes as the Donald Trump administration has intensified its clampdown on undocumented immigrants living across the US, which has led to widespread fear among thousands of people living in the country illegally.
The latest immigration push was further triggered after Trump, in a series of provocative tweets, last week had targetted four US Congresswomen telling them to “go back” to the “totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came”, adding “you can’t leave fast enough”.