The U.S Customs and Border Protection(CBP) issued new guidelines surrounding the treatment of pregnant, postpartum, nursing Individuals, and infants in custody in response to a review by the Office of Inspector General detailing how a 27 year-old Guatemalan woman gave birth at a Chula Vista Border Patrol station.
The woman and her family were found walking east of the Otay Mesa Port of Entry near San Diego on Feb.16, 2020. They were arrested on suspicion of crossing the border from Mexico without authorization. A routine medical assessment took place on the woman and her family where she went into labor. According to a statement released by Border Patrol, “the medical staff, along with agents, prepared an area for the mother to give birth”.The woman and her newborn daughter were taken into the hospital in stable condition.
An administrative complaint was filed last year by the ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties and the Jewish Family Service of San Diego. Federal immigration authorities placed the woman’s family under the Trump administration’s “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP) program that required them to remain in Mexico until they were processed. The administrative complaint claimed the woman sought asylum at the time of her arrest and was transported to the Chula Vista Border Patrol Station for processing instead of the hospital.
A report was released shortly after on July 20, to determine whether the border patrol’s policies and procedures in response to child birth were appropriate. The report found that the CBP did not mistreat women. However, the report found that CBP does not track pregnancies and births accurately. A total of 23 births between 2016 and 2020 were recorded under CBP custody.
A series of updated measures implementing medical support border patrol stations are required to have within 45 days was reviewed by CBP acting commissioner Troy Miller. Expectant mothers with medical concerns, in active labor or nursing, those who have given birth in the last six months, those recently experienced stillbirths or miscarriages and infants are covered under this new rule.
“CBP personnel may consider all available information within the scope of their operations (including observation, self-reporting, self-referral, and referral by family members or companions) when determining if a person is pregnant, postpartum, or nursing, and when determining whether a child is an infant,” the report read.
A multi-phase approach was implemented in identifying and addressing medical concerns. The first phase of medical care identifies and addresses medical issues with observation of potential medical concerns for all individuals in custody by agents and officers. For the second phase, an initial health interview is performed on people in CBP custody at facilities. The last phase indicates the acquisition of medical assessments conducted on individuals with identified medical concerns, but is “ subject to availability of resources and operational feasibility”.
A new policy at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), prohibits the detention of most pregnant, postpartum and nursing mothers for deportation. According to the CBP, their updated policy is not intended to have any effect on the immigration processing or outcomes of individuals. It intends to focus on improving care of detainees, and not changing their immigration status.