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Woman suspected of illegally crossing into U.S. gives birth at Border Patrol office

Border Patrol agent at work checking people entering the country.
Border Patrol agent at work checking people entering the country.
(Associated Press)

A pregnant Guatemalan woman arrested on suspicion of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border without authorization over the weekend gave birth about half an hour later in a Chula Vista Border Patrol station, authorities said Wednesday.

The 27-year-old woman and her family were spotted walking about a mile east of the Otay Mesa Port of Entry about 2:30 p.m. Sunday. It is believed they used a ladder to get over the border fence, said Border Patrol spokesman Jarrett Decker.

The agent who made the arrest noticed the woman was visibly pregnant but said she did not appear to be in distress and did not request any medical attention.

Once they got to the Chula Vista station, the woman, the baby’s father and two children were being examined for a routine medical assessment when the woman went into labor, officials said.

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“The medical staff, along with agents, prepared an area for the mother to give birth,” the Border Patrol statement said.

The woman gave birth about 3 p.m., and the two were taken to a hospital. The mother and baby are in stable condition, officials said.

“Thanks to the medical resources available in our stations, this woman and her child were well cared for and received immediate medical attention,” Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke said in a statement. “Our agents are well trained to manage the unexpected, and I’m proud of the work they did in caring for this mother.”

Since Oct. 1, 2019, there have been 33 cases of pregnancy-related hospital visits within the San Diego sector, Heitke said.

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Since July 2019, medical staff have been assigned around-the-clock to work at four of six border stations, he said.

The care of pregnant women detained in Customs and Border Protection and Border Patrol facilities has come under scrutiny by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties, which last month filed an administrative complaint over the treatment of detainees.

The complaint, filed with the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, alleges detainees have suffered abuse and mistreatment while in the facilities.

To prepare the complaint, ACLU staff members interviewed more than 100 people between March and July 2019 after they were released from custody. The interviews highlighted “disturbing accounts of abuse and mistreatment,” including one pregnant woman who said she was repeatedly slammed against a chain-link fence by a Border Patrol agent, according to the civil rights group.

In filing the complaint, the ACLU has recommended that no individual be held in CBP or Border Patrol detention facilities longer than 12 hours.

“CBP routinely fails to treat its vulnerable detainees with the dignity and respect that all people deserve,” Mitra Ebadolahi, staff attorney with the ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties, said in a statement last month.

“Anyone who is pregnant requires heightened medical care,” she said, and the facilities are “categorically unsuitable to provide this level of care.”

Kucher writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Updates:
5:56 PM, Feb. 19, 2020: This story has been updated with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson’s statement regarding the ACLU administrative complaint.

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