A Border Patrol agent is positioned by the border fence. Photo by Chris Stone

An administrative complaint was filed Wednesday on behalf of a Guatemalan woman who was allegedly ignored by U.S. Border Patrol officers as she went into labor earlier this year at the Chula Vista Border Patrol station, where she gave birth.

The complaint alleges mistreatment at the hands of Border Patrol agents and calls for an investigation into the circumstances behind the detention of the 27-year-old woman, identified only as “Ana,” and her family.

Border Patrol officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties and Jewish Family Service of San Diego.

“We are filing this complaint because CBP facilities, including U.S. Border Patrol stations, are categorically unsuitable for pregnant people and newborn babies. But the agency routinely and irresponsibly detains pregnant people, putting their health in grave danger by denying them access to proper medical care,” said Monika Y. Langarica, an immigrant rights attorney with the ACLU. “This horrific case is just the most recent and one of the most egregious examples of this agency’s abuse.”

The complaint alleges the woman tried to enter in the United States with her husband and two daughters last May via Mexico, then were forced to wait in Mexico for months per the Department of Homeland Security’s Migrant Protection Protocols program pending their immigration court proceedings.

In February, the woman’s family was allegedly threatened by an unidentified “persecutor” who had originally caused the family to flee Guatemala, spurring them to attempt to enter the United States again, as “she would rather be detained with her husband and daughters in the United States than risk her persecutor finding her family in Mexico,” according to the complaint.

After Ana began feeling pain in her womb, her husband called 911 and the family was later arrested by a Border Patrol agent, who allegedly threatened “to send them back to Mexico.”

They were then transported to the Chula Vista Border Patrol station, where her “pain became excruciating and intolerable,” causing her to hold onto a garbage can for support, the complaint says.

While Border Patrol agents “repeatedly commanded her to sit down,” Ana “partially delivered her baby into her pants” while standing and onto holding onto the garbage can, according to the complaint.

She was then assisted by a Border Patrol agent and medical staff and was taken to Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center with her newborn. She was discharged two days later and spent another night at the Border Patrol Station in a holding cell with her baby amid “extremely cold temperatures” and accusations from Border Patrol agents that she only tried to enter the U.S. to deliver her child, the complaint alleges.

The ACLU and Jewish Family Services say that accusation was not true as her baby wasn’t due for about another month. The family was released the following day to the Jewish Family Services Migrant Family Shelter.

The complaint also alleges Ana’s account is at odds with a Border Patrol news release, which stated that upon arrest, she “did not appear to be in distress and did not request any medical attention.”

“JFS officially joins ACLU in calling for the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General to investigate this incident and adopt the vital recommendations outlined in our complaint, so that no pregnant person has to endure the heinous conditions Ana experienced,” said Kate Clark, senior director of immigration services for Jewish Family Service of San Diego.

The filing parties are calling on the Department of Homeland Security to direct CBP to immediately transport pregnant detainees to hospitals for evaluation; release people who are forced to give birth in custody; and ensure access to basic necessities for pregnant people and newborn babies.

–City News Service

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