With their signs and their chants, they gathered on the steps of the federal building and said never again.
Civil rights advocates joined Congressmen Joaquin Castro and Lloyd Doggett to blast federal authorities for their treatment of ten-year-old immigrant Rosa Maria Hernandez.
The disabled girl was taken into custody and removed from her parents shortly after she had surgery because of federal immigration allegations.
Congressman Joaquin Castro said he planned to talk to the family late Saturday, and as he reflected on what he would tell them, he said he felt a sense of shame.
“I was thinking of how to describe it and to celebrate this or to say congratulations doesn't seem quite right. There don't seem to be the exact words in the English language to describe what a shame this was,” Castro said.
"On the one hand, we're glad that this is over, her custody, her detention, but on the other hand this became the shame of the nation and a symbol of our broken immigration system."
Congressman Lloyd Doggett said, "The insensitivity of coming to a church or a hospital or a courthouse to remove someone, particularly someone struggling with cerebral palsy, it's just wrong and it's contrary to our American values."
With small children looking on, the advocates spoke of fear. Priscila Martinez of the Workers Defense Action Fund visited with the family.
Martinez said, "She has never been away from her family, and yet this is the case, where she was and for her to not be able to understand, as a ten-year-old, it was just really heartbreaking every single day that she was there."
Martinez said this is not an isolated case. She said many immigrants are finding themselves struggling with hard choices.
"You shouldn't have to decide between your immigration status and your health," Martinez said.
RAICES spokesman Jonathan Ryan called this a Halloween horror story. Ryan said while the little girl should have been thinking about costumes and candy, she was instead terrified of real-life monsters outside her door. Ryan said the little girl’s mother faced fear as well.
Ryan said “She too clung to her child in fear, knowing that she couldn't say there's no monster outside of that door because there was. There was a monster outside of that door and it wasn't a story tale. It wasn't a character. It was a representative for you and for me. That was someone representing us.”
Quoting a published story, Ryan said "Is this who we are? The answer to that question must be no! No. No. No. But today, I leave you on this sad note that the answer is yes!"
Even though the girl has been released from custody, the family still faces administrative action so spokesmen urged people to call all the federal agencies involved in this case and express support for dropping any further penalties.