SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General last week released its review of a Feb. 16, 2020 incident in which a 27-year-old Guatemalan woman seeking asylum gave birth at a U.S. Border Patrol station in San Diego.
The inquiry was done after a complaint was filed by the ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties and Jewish Family Service of San Diego calling for an immediate investigation of the U.S. Border Patrol’s treatment of the woman and demanding that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) stop detaining pregnant women and instead prioritize their prompt release.
After being detained, the Guatemalan woman went into labor but was taken to a Border Patrol station rather than a hospital. This, according to the complaint, resulted in her partially delivering her baby while standing and holding onto a garbage can. Eventually, she was taken to a hospital.
The Inspector General’s review agreed in part with the complaint and found the woman should not have been returned to the Border Patrol station and booked back into custody together with her baby and forced to sleep on a concrete bench with the days-old infant.
But the review also claims that U.S. Border Patrol provided “adequate medical assistance” to the woman and her newborn. The OIG offers no basis for this conclusion beyond noting that it reviewed records and interviewed individuals regarding the incident.
The review also does not acknowledge the presence of numerous strangers during the birth, the woman’s pleas for medical attention upon apprehension and the verbal mistreatment she endured prior to, during and after giving birth, details that were outlined in the complaint.
“The OIG review’s recommendations only scratch the surface of the changes needed to compel U.S. Border Patrol to respect the rights and dignity of pregnant people in its custody. OIG’s fixation on the rights of U.S. citizen newborns misses the point of the demands included in our complaint, which calls on CBP to stop detaining pregnant people altogether,” said Monika Y. Langarica, immigrant rights’ staff attorney with the ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “CBP must respect the rights of pregnant people and their newborn babies, and the sanctity of family unity, by prioritizing the prompt release of pregnant people into their networks of care in the U.S.”
Earlier this month, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued such a policy directive saying “generally, ICE should not detain, arrest, or take into custody” people who are “known to be pregnant, postpartum, or nursing.”