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Brentwood girl returns from Guatemala

Emily Ruiz, a 4-year-old U.S. citizen, has returned

Emily Ruiz, a 4-year-old U.S. citizen, has returned to her home and reunited with her family in New York after being wrongly sent to Guatemala by U.S. immigration officers. (March 29, 2011) Credit: Clark Jones

A 4-year-old Brentwood girl -- a U.S. citizen sent to Guatemala after getting caught in the middle of an immigration dispute -- is back home.

Emily Samantha Ruiz flew first class to be reunited with her parents and younger brother Tuesday night, said the family's attorney, David Sperling.

"Emily's back with us now," her father, Leonel Ruiz, said in a statement yesterday. "We have no words to express the joy it brings us to see, hold and kiss our daughter again."

Customs officials put the girl on a return flight to Guatemala nearly three weeks ago in what immigrants-rights advocates denounced as a deportation.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said the girl's return to Guatemala was her parents' choice. The officials said the girl couldn't be released directly to her parents under federal rules because of their undocumented status.

The incident started when Emily returned to the United States with her grandfather after an extended visit to her parents' country. Her guardian was detained because he had a pending immigration violation, and Emily wound up flying back to Central America with him.

Sperling, who brought Emily home from Guatemala, said Customs sought to place the child under state custody in a juvenile center in Virginia, rather than release her to her parents.

The federal agency denied the allegation, saying, "The family was offered the chance to pick up the child."

Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills), who asked the Department of Homeland Security to review the case, said he was "relieved" the girl had been reunited with her family.

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