ICE willing to sentence severely disabled 4-year-old U.S. citizen girl to death or total paralysis for crime of her father.
Danna Palma is 4-years-old. She is a U.S. citizen and suffers from a severe form of Cerebral Palsy. She lives with her mom, dad and 5-year-old U.S. citizen sister, Shakira.
She cannot walk without both mechanical and human assistance. In order for her to maintain the ability to move, Danna must engage in daily occupational and physical therapy.
If she does not do her therapy, she risks becoming totally paralyzed.
The most important person in the world to Danna is her father, Miguel Palma.
In 2011, Miguel was arrested and convicted of his second DUI offense. Miguel was subsequently detained by ICE for approximately a month.
He eventually was released and served another month in jail for his arrest. On June 12, 2012, Miguel completed rehabilitation and has stayed clean since.
When Miguel was detained in 2011, Danna was devastated. She refused to do any of her therapy and did not sleep for two weeks straight.
Her ability to move regressed significantly. Since her dad’s return, she has returned to normal, participating in therapy on a regular basis.
I have met her three times now and can say that she is a very happy girl, playing with her sister and playfully calling me: “Abogado.”
If Miguel is deported to Peru, she will again be devastated. If she does not participate in therapy for a significant amount of time, she risks becoming totally paralyzed, which can also lead to death.
Given that Miguel is not eligible for a defense to removal, I submitted a request for prosecutorial discretion on his behalf to Immigration and Customs Enforcement so that he would not be at risk of being separated from Danna.
First, an Assistant Chief Counsel formally denied my request on September 17, 2012.
In a discussion prior to his decision, I asked him about the hardship that Danna would face if her dad was removed. He dismissed the concern, responding that: “He could have just gotten into the car with his daughter.”
Ultimately, Chief Counsel of New York declined to reverse the original ICE attorney’s decision to deny prosecutorial discretion.
Lastly, I requested ICE’s Office of the Principal Legal Adviser’s headquarters to review the New York office’s decision. Today, they informed me that they would decline to disturb the original denial.
The evidence is irrefutable: If Miguel is removed from the United States, Danna will suffer exceptionally extreme hardship. She could become totally paralyzed or die.
ICE has the power to save Danna’s life by exercising prosecutorial discretion in favor of Miguel. Yet they refuse, citing “public safety” concerns. ICE has stated that they “sympathize” with Danna, but are not willing to act on this sympathy.
Danna is a U.S. citizen who deserves a voice to represent her interests. Her interests are inextricably linked with being with her father here in her home country, the United States.
Our federal government has more than just an obligation to enforce laws; they also have an obligation to consider what their enforcement actions will have on their own people.
Here, the answer is clear:
Danna’s life should trump that of a hypothetical danger that her father presents to the public. Anyone who has met this little girl and her family could not disagree.