November 02, 2021

The letter follows a DHS OIG report examining the heartbreaking experience of an 8-month-pregnant woman who was arrested by border patrol and forced to give birth while standing in a patrol station.

Today, US Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) Joined with Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) In calling on Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to “order customs and protect Border Patrol (CBP), including its Border Patrol component agency, to issue a policy prohibiting the detention of pregnant, postpartum and / or breastfeeding persons. The letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (DN.J.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) And Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

Senators’ demand for a new policy ending the detention of pregnant and postpartum immigrant women follows a report by the Office of the Inspector General of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS OIG) that “revealed the lack of process and guidance needed from CBP to appropriately manage pregnant people. , and years of documentation by non-governmental organizations of the serious mistreatment of those detained by CBP. ”

The DHS OIG report was spurred on by the heartbreaking experience of an eight-month-pregnant woman when she arrived at the southern border in mid-February 2020 with symptoms of the flu. After border patrol arrested her, she was sent to the Chula Vista border patrol station where she was forced to give birth standing up, putting the baby in her pants, while standing on the edge of a trash can to to support. This woman’s experience was detailed in a complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on her behalf.

Monika Y. Langarica, attorney for the Immigrant Rights staff of the ACLU Foundation of San Diego and Imperial Counties, said of the letter to DHS: “No parent should ever have to endure the trauma and abuse experienced by our client when she was forced to give birth on a border patrol. station and return for a night of postpartum detention with her newborn U.S. citizen. We can prevent this kind of abuse from happening again by completely avoiding the detention of people who are pregnant, postpartum or breastfeeding. We welcome Senators’ call to change CBP policy as a step towards rebuilding our border asylum system into one that welcomes people with dignity and humanity.

Kate clark, senior director of immigration services for the Jewish Family Service of San Diego, added: “Policy changes must be enacted to ensure that no one is forced to give birth in detention or is immediately returned to a prison setting with a newborn. By aligning these policies with those already implemented by ICE, we can help ensure that pregnant people and their families are treated with dignity and compassion as they seek asylum in the United States.

The full text of the letter to DHS is available here and copied below.

Dear Mayorkas Secretary:

We urge you to ask US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), including its Border Patrol component agency, to issue a policy prohibiting the detention of pregnant, postpartum and / or breastfeeding persons in accordance with the policy recently published by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”). Such a policy is vital to ensure the dignity and health of these people and their newborns, especially during a continuing global pandemic. This policy is strongly advised in light of a recent report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS),[1] which revealed the lack of process and guidance necessary for CBP to properly care for pregnant persons, and years of documentation by non-governmental organizations regarding the serious mistreatment suffered by those detained by CBP.

In April 2020, several signatories to this letter requested that the DHS OIG review the border patrol treatment of a pregnant woman at the Chula Vista border patrol station, who reportedly gave birth while standing and standing on the edge of the sea. ‘a trash can for help, putting the baby in his pants and brought back to the station with her newborn baby for further detention after being released from the hospital.[2] In July 2021, the OIG released the resulting public report, confirming a number of deeply troubling aspects of this account.[3] As this case and the OIG report points out, CBP’s current policy is grossly inadequate and has exposed pregnant people and their newborn US citizens to serious dangers to their health and safety.

A change in CBP policy is needed to prevent what happened to the woman who was the subject of this report from happening again, including the failure of CBP to ensure that she received medical attention. timely while in labor, lack of privacy during and after the traumatic birth and a night of postpartum detention during which she was forced to sleep on a bench with her newborn of two days, US citizen.

ICE recently published a similar policy. It is said, “[g]As a general rule, the ICE should not detain, arrest or put into custody “people” known to be pregnant, postpartum and / or breastfeeding “.[4] DHS should build on this welcome development by expanding it to ensure that CBP also refrains from detaining people who are pregnant, postpartum and / or breastfeeding. This would strengthen consistency across DHS and also help preserve agency resources. It is particularly unnecessary for CBP to detain pregnant, postpartum, and / or lactating individuals, as, in accordance with recent ICE policy, ICE will ultimately release them.

Specifically, and in accordance with DHS OIG recommendations, we urge CBP to issue a policy prohibiting the detention of individuals known to be pregnant, postpartum, and / or breastfeeding for longer than the minimum time necessary to treat them for. of their release from CBP Guard. Such a policy would further clarify CBP’s national standards on transportation, escort, detention and search, which require that no detained person is generally detained for more than 72 hours at CBP detention facilities and already recognize the pregnant people as an “at-risk population” requiring additional care and monitoring.[5] In formulating this policy, we urge CBP to include at least these four key parameters:

  1. Minimize the time that pregnant, postpartum and / or lactating persons and their families are in CBP detention to the minimum period necessary to process them for their release from CBP detention, and prohibit them strictly to be detained overnight;
  2. Ensure that, when CBP officers and agents choose where and how to treat them, whether in the field, at a border patrol station or any other CBP facility, the health and safety of those who are pregnant, postpartum and / or breastfeeding is essential;
  3. Proactively assess and respond to the urgent medical care needs of pregnant, postpartum and / or breastfeeding people, including requiring rapid transportation to off-site hospitals, as appropriate; and
  4. Ensure that these individuals, along with their families, are released from CBP detention as soon as possible after discharge from an off-site hospital, and that they are not transferred back to CBP detention for any purpose. either, including processing.

Many of these items are similar to ICE policy and are necessary to ensure the safety of pregnant persons held by CBP.[6]

In a memo dated August 18, 2021, Acting CBP Commissioner Troy A. Miller acknowledged that “CBP management has concluded that the treatment of women giving birth in CBP custody raises important humanitarian interests. and public health.[.]”[7] The memo calls on CBP officers and officers to “consider that public health and humanitarian interests may weigh in favor of an exception” to Title 42 evictions, and also requires CBP to offer a medical assessment to those who indicate that ” they are pregnant, if a health care provider is present in the facility. However, this memo does not ask CBP to avoid or minimize the detention of such persons, despite the recognition of the harm detention does to pregnant people and those giving birth in CBP custody. A policy like the one we advocate in this correspondence is essential to protect the health and safety of pregnant, postpartum, and / or breastfeeding individuals, and newborn U.S. citizens.



[1] Dep’t of Homeland Sec., Office of Inspector General, Review of the February 16, 2020 Childbirth at the Chula Vista Border Patrol Station, at 18 (July 20, 2021), https://www.oig.dhs.gov/ sites /default/files/assets/2021-07/OIG-21-49-Jul21.pdf.

[2] See Letter of the Senses. Blumenthal, Markey, Hirono, Carper, Durbin, Warren, Harris, Van Hollen, Booker, Duckworth, Gillibrand, Klobuchar and Merkley to Joseph V. Cuffari, Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security, April 8, 2020, available at https://www.blumenthal.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/FINAL%20CBP%20Mistreating%20Pregnant%20Individuals%20Letter.pdf.

[3] Dep’t of Homeland Sec., above note 1, to 3.

[4] Guideline: Identification and monitoring of pregnant inmates, American immigrant. & Customs Enf’t (July 1, 2021), https://www.ice.gov/directive-identification-and-monitoring-pregnant-postpartum-or-nursing-individuals.

[5] US Customs and Border Protection, National Standards on Transport, Escort, Detention, and Search (Oct 2015), https://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/assets/documents/2020-Feb/cbp-teds -politics-October2015.pdf.

[6] In line with the parallel policy of the ICE and the recommendations of the OIG report, we further recommend that CBP document all cases in which it provides care for pregnant, postpartum and / or breastfeeding persons and cases of breastfeeding. deliveries that occur in and that CBP regularly monitors and documents the health, well-being, and medical needs of detained newborns and those who are pregnant, postpartum and / or breastfeeding.

[7] Memorandum from Troy A. Miller, Acting Comm’r, US Customs and Border Protection (August 18, 2021).


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