A 3-year-old girl was left partially paralyzed after being left in a wrecked vehicle for hours after a 3-vehicle crash. Daniela Flores was in the care of a family friend because her mother has been detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The family friend reportedly gave the child to a male, Ever Ortega, also the driver of the vehicle, who is purportedly the cause of the accident due to his inability to control his vehicle’s speed.
First responders to the accident didn’t notice the toddler in the back of the car; Flores was found roughly 3 hours later in the floorboard of the backseat, which means she wasn’t wearing a seatbelt or fastened into a child-safety seat. The little girl was unconscious, but breathing. She was rushed to the hospital where she was found to be suffering from brain damage that has ultimately left her partially paralyzed.
It’s unclear yet how the young girl was overlooked. An investigation has been opened, but both responding firefighters and EMS personnel looked inside the vehicle and didn’t see Flores.
Criminal Charges for Ortega
A spokesperson for the City of Odessa says the occupants of all the vehicles involved in the crash were alert after the accident, but for some reason the driver and other passenger repeatedly told officials there were no other passengers inside the vehicle. One firefighter that completed a visual check of the car did notice a child safety seat, but since the driver and other passenger insisted there was no one else inside, first responders didn’t have any reason to believe there were any other passengers in the car.
Why didn’t Ortega or the other passenger in the car inform responders that the Flores was in the back of the car? I’m baffled for an answer and we may not ever get one.
Ortega has been charged with intoxication assault causing serious injury, which is a third-degree felony in Texas. Should he have been charged with more? It will probably depend entirely on what comes out after the investigation as to why he failed to inform responders the toddler was in the vehicle.
Will the Mother Have Any Legal Remedies On Behalf of Her Daughter?
The mother’s immigration issue shouldn’t inhibit possible damages on behalf of the daughter. The first thought is to blame Ortega on a civil basis, but in terms of money damages, it’s more likely the City of Odessa and emergency responders will be targets for a negligence lawsuit.
Although an internal investigation has been opened, according to Andrea Goodson, Public Information Coordinator for the City of Odessa, there’s no indication that emergency responders did anything wrong. Even still, since three city agencies responded to the accident, the Texas Department of Public Safety troopers, the Ector County sheriff’s deputies and the Odessa Fire Rescue, they’re the likely targets.
What Will This Mean for the Toddler Since Her Mother is Here Illegally?
With so much news surrounding the fact that the young girl was overlooked by emergency responders, it shadows a different problem that’s so prevalent today. What happens to the children when their illegal parents are detained by immigration officials?
As of 2011, close to 5,100 children in the U.S. were in foster care because their parents were either detained or deported. The laws surrounding detainees and their children aren’t technically any different than a legal resident and their child—parents have a constitutional right to the care and control of their children and that right isn’t limited to U.S. citizens. Under immigration law, the law assumes immigrant parents will retain custody of their children and either take the child with them or voluntarily leave the child in this country.
For some reason though, this gets murky when parents are detained and/or deported and what happens afterwards isn’t exactly consistent across the board. Sometimes parents’ rights get stripped and the children are put up for adoption, while others are able to obtain temporary visas to stay in the country long enough to fight their child custody cases.
In an effort to thwart separating parents from their children, the Obama administration implemented policies known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) that would allow illegal immigrants who have children that are citizens or lawful permanent residents to defer deportation for a limited period of time. Both policies have been put on hold, though, after a federal district court in Texas held the executive orders were unconstitutional and the Supreme Court deadlocked on appeal.
It’s a problem that needs addressed, but hasn’t been solved as of yet. With President-elect Donald Drumpf’s strict stance on immigration policy, it doesn’t appear that it’s going to get better anytime soon.
Authored by Ashley Roncevic, LegalMatch Legal Writer