Things That Matter

She Gave Birth While Still Wearing Her Jeans Because Border Patrol Agents Ignored Her Pleas For Help

Unfortunately, there have been no shortage of stories detailing the cruelty experienced by migrants at the hands of Border Patrol officers. But this one in particular has struck a chord with people.

In February, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced that it had safely helped an asylum-seeker give birth while in custody. But the woman herself has now come forward and thrown that narrative into doubt.

Border Patrol agents in California are now under investigation for alleged abusive treatment of a pregnant woman in their custody.

The complaint filed Wednesday details how a Guatemalan woman gave birth at the Chula Vista Border Patrol station near San Diego, standing up, holding onto a trash can while still wearing her pants. She had pleaded with Border Patrol agents for help, but they reportedly told her to sit down and wait to be processed.

She had been detained with her husband and two young daughters in February as they hoped to apply for asylum in the U.S.

The mother, who delivered her baby while still wearing her pants, asked agents for help repeatedly and mentioned she was in pain.

They were in the midst of being processed by agents when after about 30 minutes, her husband could hear the baby crying through the fabric of her pants.

According to the complaint, which was filed by the ACLU and Jewish Family Service of San Diego, the woman, whom lawyers call Anna, gave birth while wearing her pants, and holding onto a garbage can, even after she complained of womb pain on the trip to the Border Patrol station. 

The complaint states that her husband, who was arrested along with their two other children while crossing the border, helped pull down her pants to reveal his partially-born daughter. The baby was then birthed in the cell, in full sight of other detainees and Border Patrol employees.

The woman and her newborn were later taken to Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center where they were discharged and returned to the station for the night, during which the newborn was not given a sufficient blanket, the complaint claims, adding that Ana was only allowed to shower when she was released to the Jewish Family Service Migrant Family Shelter three days after giving birth.

Yup – Border Patrol agents let a woman endure a painful labor and risked the life of a baby by ignoring her request for help.

Later, at a family shelter run by Jewish Family Service of San Diego, the new mother was interviewed about her alleged mistreatment. After hearing her story, the shelter contacted the American Civil Liberties Union and together, both agencies filed the complaint on the mother’s behalf.

The family is now safe and healthy and reunited with family members in another part of the US, Kate Clark, senior director of immigration services at Jewish Family Service of San Diego, told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday.

Originally, the Border Patrol had released a statement praising their officers for helping a woman deliver a baby – that now looks like it wasn’t entirely true.

The Border Patrol, in a statement published Feb. 19, said the woman “did not appear to be in distress and did not request any medical attention” when she was first apprehended. It went on to say that staff “prepared an area for the mother to give birth” at the Chula Vista station.

Alongside the complaint filed by the ACLU, Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal is writing a letter to Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari also demanding an investigation.

The letter is signed by 12 other members of Congress, including Sens. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Amy Klobuchar, and it seconds the ACLU’s demand for an investigation into the woman’s specific incident, as well as several similar instances of the mistreatment of pregnant people in immigration custody, and an overhaul of DHS policies on the detainment of pregnant people.

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