At 7 months old, Kemberly Méndez doesn’t roll over or sit in a propped-up position. Her right thumb is flexed downward; her index finger is a nubbin and the rest of her right-hand fingers are webbed.
Her short life has consisted of physical therapy sessions and visits to specialists who are treating her for Poland syndrome, a pattern of one-sided body malformations, usually on the right side, that are present at birth.
But all the care Kemberly, a U.S. citizen, is receiving at Erlanger hospital and at the Shriners Hospital in Lexington, Ky., is in limbo because her mother is an illegal immigrant.
Kemberly’s mother, Lubia del Cid, a 35-year-old Guatemalan native living in Rossville, was among 100 Pilgrim’s Pride workers arrested on April 16. But because she had a previous deportation order, her situation is on hold, her attorney, David Elliott, said.
Immigration agents caught Ms. del Cid as she crossed the Texas-Mexico border four years ago. She was given a notice to appear in court. Because she didn’t understand what the notice was, she said she didn’t go and missed a deportation hearing.
Mr. Elliott said he’s asking the federal government to consider Kemberly’s medical needs in resolving her mother’s case.
Kemberly’s medical needs are Ms. del Cid’s greatest worry.
“I just want my daughter to live a normal life, and I know that’s not going to be possible for her in Guatemala,” she said, cradling Kemberly in her arms.
“Handicapped children in Guatemala are treated very differently than here,” she said. “Over there they don’t understand that they’re sick; they just make fun of them.”
BY THE NUMBERS
From the immigration raid on Pilgrims Pride in Chattanooga:
100: Number of people arrested 4: Number of months since the arrests More than 15: Number of organizations that have gotten involved About 75: Number of families helped since the arrests About $50,000: Amount of money donated
Ms. del Cid said doctors will try to operate on Kemberly’s hand in one to two years as her bones mature. Her daughter also will require a plate in her chest because of muscle deficiency.
Dr. Cathy A. Stevens, director of medical genetics at T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital, said although the rest of Kemberly’s body and mind are normal, the baby’s anomaly affects her motor development and she might need long-term physical therapy.
Before Ms. del Cid was arrested, she would send $200 to $300 every two weeks to her three teenage sons still in Guatemala to help pay for their schooling.
“What would I be able to offer them if I go back?” asked Ms. del Cid, who also has a 2-year-old daughter, Ashley Méndez, living here.
Since she was released with a monitoring ankle bracelet, Ms. del Cid has sold Guatemalan tamales and cut neighbors’ hair to bring in some money.
“I have to find a way to feed my children here and send money back to my children in Guatemala,” Ms. del Cid said. “I’m their father and mother.”
Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...