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Woman with Brain Tumor Seeks Asylum, but Held in Detention Center

DALLAS (CBS NEWS) -- A Salvadoran woman seeking asylum in the United States was returned to a Texas detention center after spending almost two weeks in a hospital, U.S. immigration officials said Thursday.

Attorneys for Sara Beltran Hernandez, 26, said Thursday that they were seeking a humanitarian parole of the woman that would allow her family more control over her medical care. In a statement translated from Spanish and released to The Associated Press, Beltran Hernandez said that she had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and that a neurosurgeon would let her know Monday if it was cancerous.

“I feel dizzy, with pain. Heavy eyes. Nausea. If I walk fast, I feel dizzy. Noise really bothers me. I have not eaten since yesterday (when I ate a salad) because I have no appetite. Sometimes, I forget things. The tongue is not always responsive,” Beltran Hernandez told an attorney who visited her Thursday at the Prairieland Detention Center.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Beltran Hernandez was released Wednesday to the detention center in Alvarado, Texas, south of Fort Worth.

“After she was determined by her physician to be stable, she was discharged from the hospital and returned to ICE custody at (Prairieland Detention Center). Ms. Beltran Hernandez has an appointment with a specialist on Monday (Feb. 27) who will determine the course for future treatment. Until that time, ICE medical staff is keeping her under observation,” Danielle Bennett, an ICE spokeswoman wrote in an email.

A spokesman for Texas Health Huguley Hospital outside of Fort Worth, where Beltran Hernandez was taken after collapsing at the detention center on Feb. 11, said he could not discuss details of any patient’s care because of privacy laws. However, he said residency status does not affect the level of patient care. Bruette said law enforcement has control over who has access to a patient beyond the hospital’s medical team in these situations.

“A patient’s residency status -- whether they are an undocumented immigrant, a political refugee, a permanent legal resident, or someone born and raised here in the United States -- would never impact their medical care or whether they are allowed to see family, have access to the phone, or visits from the chaplain,” wrote Elijah Bruette, director of business development and community relations at the hospital.

Meanwhile, Amnesy International USA is pressing for the release of Hernandez while her asylum request is being reviewed.

“In the face of President Trump’s aggressive immigration orders, we will fight to ensure that people with asylum claims are given a fair hearing and humane treatment,” Eric Ferrero, Amnesty International USA spokesperson said. “People like Sara who are seeking asylum for horrific violence should not be treated like criminals while their cases are processed. We must do everything we can to ensure protection for people who are fleeing violence.”

According to ICE records, the woman entered the United States illegally near Hidalgo, Texas, on Nov. 7, 2015. On Jan. 26, an immigration judge ordered her removed from the country.

Attorneys appealing the woman’s asylum case said earlier this week that she was fleeing domestic violence and other threats.

Melissa Zuniga, a paralegal working on her asylum case, flew from New York City Thursday to help ask for Beltran Hernandez’s release, saying lawyers were concerned she was only receiving Tylenol for her pain.

“We are asking for immediate humanitarian parole. We can’t wait for a bond redetermination hearing. She doesn’t have days, she has hours ... we need her to get out,” Zuniga said. “This is the 13th day she has not had this surgery, and we do not understand why.”

Zuniga said Beltran Hernandez told attorneys that her hands and feet were tied when she was taken back to the detention center in a wheelchair. Zuniga and the woman’s attorneys also said phone calls were not allowed from Beltran Hernandez’s family for an extended period of her hospital stay.

Bennett said the woman was not restrained when she was transported to the detention center, and that she received phone calls from both family and her attorney of record while in the hospital.

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