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How Border Patrol has kept newborns locked up with their moms

Kate Morrissey, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in News & Features

The report says that investigators reviewed law enforcement reports, video footage and dispatch records and interviewed "numerous individuals."

It provides a general timeline that indicates Ana was apprehended around 2:30 p.m. and that agents brought her and her family to the station around 3 p.m. She began delivering her baby at 3:09 p.m., according to the timeline. The birth took about eight minutes. Emergency medical staff arrived about two minutes after Ana finished giving birth.

"The investigation did not substantiate the allegation that Border Patrol and unnamed Border Patrol agents assigned to the Chula Vista station mistreated the detainee," the report says.

The report does not specifically address any of the alleged actions that Ana said happened during the childbirth process or provide further detail on investigator's findings beyond the general timeline.

The Office of the Inspector General did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

"CBP takes its role providing care and ensuring the health, safety, security, and welfare of each adult and child in its custody very seriously," said a spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection, Border Patrol's parent agency. "That the OIG did not find deficiencies in Border Patrol's provision of access to medical assistance to the mother and her newborn, or non-compliance with applicable policies, is a testament to that."

After Ana gave birth, she was taken to a hospital for two days and then returned to the Border Patrol station, where she spent the night with her newborn in a cell. Photos in the OIG report show Ana sleeping on a bench with her baby, the child wrapped in a metallic blanket.

 

"The photographs are really upsetting," Langarica said. "When we talk about welcoming people with dignity, with humanity, in a way that comports with their rights, this is not it."

Ana and her daughter were released the following afternoon with instructions to appear in immigration court.

Investigators found other instances of post partum mothers and their newborn babies spending one or several nights in holding cells. They were not able to identify every instance in which this happened, according to the report, because Border Patrol does not have a way to track childbirths in custody.

The report calls for Border Patrol to develop a standardized way to track in-custody births and to work to release mothers and their newborn children more quickly.

Ana's complaint called for pregnant women apprehended at the border to be immediately taken to a hospital for evaluation, rather than a Border Patrol station.

"There is more work to be done to ensure pregnant people and their families are treated with dignity and compassion as they seek their legal right to asylum in the U.S.," said Kate Clark, an attorney with Jewish Family Service, another organization involved in Ana's complaint. "No one should be forced to give birth in custody or immediately returned to a carceral setting with a newborn baby."

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