SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A complaint was filed Friday on behalf of an asylum-seeking Honduran family -- which includes a newborn U.S. citizen born in Chula Vista -- that was sent across the border to Mexico to await asylum proceedings two days after the child's birth.
All four family members, including the newborn who lacks legal immigration status in Mexico, were ordered across the border by Border Patrol agents, according to the joint administrative complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Jewish Family Service.
The organizations have asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General to conduct an investigation into the family's case. They say the family should have been allowed a legally required non-refoulement interview regarding the family's fears of being sent to Mexico.
Reached for comment, a CBP spokesperson said, "As a matter of policy, CBP does not comment on pending litigation. However, lack of comment should not be construed as agreement or stipulation with any of the allegations."
The complaint alleges the family -- father, pregnant mother and 9-year- old son -- fled Honduras about a year ago and turned themselves in at the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego on June 27, one day before the mother gave birth to her son. As she was giving birth at Scripps Mercy Hospital in Chula Vista, her husband and son were not told which hospital she was taken to and were ordered back across the border, according to the complaint.
After giving birth on June 28, the mother was "interrogated" by Border Patrol agents, according to the complaint, which says the woman asked the whereabouts of her husband and older son but was not given any information by the agents.
The ACLU and Jewish Family Service allege the family should have been provided a non-refoulement interview, with both father and mother expressing fears about being returned to Mexico, but instead the mother and newborn were forced across the border on June 30.
The complaint also alleges the family tried to enter the United States in March near the U.S-Mexico border in Texas and stated fears over being turned back to Mexico, but were also turned away without being provided a non-refoulement interview. They were told to return weeks later for an immigration hearing, but COVID-19 led to a postponement of their court date.
While forced to wait in Mexico, the complaint alleges the family was "accosted and detained by a group of armed men who attempted to extort them."
The family is now staying in a rented room in Tijuana, "and neither the newborn, nor his mother, has received any medical care since the birth," in contradiction of guidance from Scripps Mercy Hospital to have follow-up visits with doctors, according to the ACLU and Jewish Family Service.
"This family should have been granted release into the U.S. to await their asylum proceedings, as the Department of Homeland Security has done with more than 23,500 individuals -- all in family units -- over the past 1.5 years across the San Diego border region," said Luis M. Gonzalez, supervising immigration attorney with Jewish Family Service. "We urge Homeland Security to grant this family entry into the U.S. immediately to keep the family together and allow for adequate care for the U.S. citizen newborn child and for the mother's postpartum medical care."
The complaint alleges that not providing the family with a non-refoulement interview violates U.S. law and Department of Homeland Security policies. The organizations demand the family be paroled together in the United States while they await asylum proceedings.
"This case reflects many of the lived horrors of both the so-called `Migrant Protection Protocols' and Border Patrol impunity," said Mitra Ebadolahi, an ACLU senior staff attorney. "No family should have to endure what this family has experienced. Together with Jewish Family Service, we are demanding a full investigation. The agency must be held to account for its disregard of basic human rights and its policy and legal transgressions."