Illegal immigrant parents of sick toddler to stay in US for 1 year

The illegal immigrant parents of a toddler with a little-known genetic abnormality were granted a one-year stay in the United States, U.S. Customs and Immigration officials said.

Victor and Maria Roa, who entered the country illegally in 1990, want to stay in the United States because their daughter's condition requires specialized care she would likely not be able to get in their native Mexico. Before officials accepted their request, filed earlier this month, the Roas were under order to leave by July 26.

Immigration officials said the one-year stay was granted in consideration of the family's circumstances.

"The decision was made on the basis of what ICE believes is in the best interest of this family," said Lori Haley, spokeswoman for ICE.

The Roas' daughter, 17-month-old Hazelle Roa, was scheduled for an exploratory heart procedure Thursday that would seek to open up a constricted heart valve - one of the consequences of her genetic disorder - and help doctors decide whether she would need further heart surgery.

Immigration officials said Thursday that the one-year stay was based on what ICE believed was in the best interest of this family, given their circumstances.

The Roas want their immigration case to be reopened. They also want permanent residency under a rule that allows undocumented immigrants to remain if their departure would cause extreme hardship to an American citizen.

"This is an extraordinary remedy that's not easily given out, but their profile fits," said the family's attorney, David Lunas. "They're deserving of it."

Hazelle was born in the United States and has been followed by a team of physicians at the University of California, San Francisco's Medical Center.

Her doctors have written letters in support of keeping her family in the United States, saying the child was unlikely to get the medical attention she needs to live a full life elsewhere.

"Her condition is essentially unique," said Stephen Wilson, medical director for the pediatric unit at UCSF, just before the toddler was checked in for the procedure. "She's really dependent on the technical intervention we're providing here. It's quite critical for her ongoing survival."

A hospital spokeswoman said late Thursday that the child's surgery had been delayed a few hours while doctors attended to other patients. Hazelle's condition will be updated Friday morning.