February 16, 2020

A pregnant Guatemalan woman was forced to give birth to her baby, with her pants on and holding on to the side of a trash can at the Chula Vista Border Patrol Station near San Diego. “…she had repeatedly asked the agents for help, telling them how much pain she was in. Instead, she was repeatedly told to sit down and wait to be processed… After about 30 minutes, her husband could hear the baby crying through the fabric of her pants. He lowered them and saw his baby’s head.”

The Guatemalan woman and the baby’s father had migrated with “their two young daughters and arrived at the San Isidro Port of Entry in San Diego in mid-May 2019, nine months before she gave birth. They were sent back to Mexico and spent nine months in a camp in Tijuana, presenting themselves at the border for three separate immigration hearings… During their wait, the woman became pregnant, with a due date of mid-March 2020.”

On February 16, 2020, ” the woman began receiving calls from the persecutors the family was fleeing… They began to harass her and threaten her… The family decided they couldn’t wait any longer. They set out to cross the border illegally, outside the port of entry, understanding they were like to be apprehended by ICE, but that they would be safer in U.S. detainment than in the camps.”

“As they crossed the desert, the woman began to feel contractions and immense pain… They were soon apprehended by a Border Patrol agent. The woman was in clear distress, and her husband begged the agent for medical attention, but instead the agent loaded the family into his car and giving them a ‘rough ride’ (an abusive practice in which some border agents reportedly purposefully drive so badly as to fling detainees around the car.”

“Shortly after [the birth], the woman was separated from her family and brought to a local hospital where she stayed for two nights. As she received postpartum care, a border agent remained in the room with her, not allowed her privacy. In the hospital, she was also diagnosed with influenza.”

“After she was discharged from the hospital, the Border Patrol agent brought her back to the station with her newborn — and, because she had symptoms of the flu, put her and her family into a quarantine cell… These cells are notoriously freezing cold, but when the woman asked for a blanket for her newborn, she was denied.”

The birth was detailed in a complaint [1] filed by the ACLU and Jewish Family Service of San Diego with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General.

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal led a letter with 12 other members of Congress to the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari demanding an investigation [2].

[1] Monika Y. Langarica, Kate Clark, and Dr. Kay Daniels, “Re: U.S. Border Patrol’s Abuse and Mistreatment of [REDACTED]” (ACLU and Jewish Family Service, April 8, 2020) <https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6827805-2020-04-07-OIG-Cmplt-Final-Redacted.html>

[2] Senator Richard Blumenthal et al, “Re: CBP Mistreating Pregnant Detainees,” (United States Senate, April 8, 2020) <https://www.blumenthal.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/2020.04.08%20DHS%20OIG%20Letter%20re%20CBP%20Mistreating%20Pregnant%20Detainees.pdf>

Source: Ema O’Connor, “A Woman Gave Birth In a Border Patrol Station Still Wearing Pants. Now The Agents Involved Are Being Accused of Abuse” (BuzzFeed News, April 9, 2020) <https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/emaoconnor/pregnant-woman-birth-border-patrol-aclu-complaint>

Sector(s): San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abuse of minor, Conditions in Custody, Denial of Medical Care, Family Separation, Gender-based Violence

Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG