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Migrant advocates in San Diego decry detention of expectant mothers

Pregnant woman at home
Posted at 3:23 PM, Oct 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-20 18:23:30-04

SAN DIEGO (CNS) — The American Civil Liberties Union in San Diego joined other immigrant rights advocacy organizations and medical professionals Thursday to urge border officials to limit the detention of pregnant women and their families.

In a letter to Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus, 83 advocacy organizations and 51 medical professionals demanded that the detention of pregnant, postpartum, nursing persons and infants be limited "to the minimum time period necessary to process them for release from CBP custody."

The letter highlighted the case of a woman who reportedly gave birth while in custody at the Chula Vista Border Patrol Station in early 2020.

The ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties and Jewish Family Service of San Diego filed an administrative complaint that year, which stated that the 27-year-old Guatemalan woman was seeking asylum when she was arrested and taken to the Chula Vista Border Patrol Station instead of a hospital.

While in CBP custody, she partially delivered her baby while standing and holding onto a garbage can for support, was subsequently taken to a hospital, then was transported back to a Border Patrol station cell with her baby just days after the birth.

The woman's case was also referenced in a letter authored last year by 11 U.S. senators who asked the Department of Homeland Security to direct CBP to alter its policies regarding the detention of pregnant people.

"There's simply no way for people to obtain adequate reproductive health care in CBP custody," said Esmeralda Flores, senior policy advocate at the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. "We're talking about facilities that are notorious for degrading conditions and medical neglect across the board. Pregnant, nursing and postpartum people must be released to obtain the standard of care they need and deserve."

Thursday's letter requests that processing of pregnant detainees take no longer than 12 hours from the time of initial apprehension and an assurance that pregnant detainees and their families are released from CBP custody as soon as possible after discharge from an offsite hospital, and are not transferred back to CBP detention.