Advocacy Groups and Medical Professionals  Demand CBP Uphold the Reproductive Rights and Health of Migrants

In letter to Commissioner Magnus, 83 orgs and 51 medical professionals urge CBP not to detain pregnant, postpartum, and nursing people, as well as infants, past time strictly necessary 

October 20, 2022 8:45 am

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, ACLU of Texas, Jewish Family Service of San Diego, and the Center for Immigration Law and Policy (CILP) at the UCLA School of Law, along with 83 advocacy organizations and 51 medical professionals, sent a letter today to Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Commissioner Chris Magnus demanding CBP uphold the reproductive rights of migrants. Specifically, the signatories urged CBP to strictly limit its detention of pregnant, postpartum, nursing persons, and their families, to the minimum time period necessary to process them for release to their networks of care in the United States.

“Our demand is simple,” said Monika Langarica, staff attorney at UCLA Center for Immigration Law and Policy. “CBP must, as a matter of uniform policy, release anyone who is pregnant, postpartum, and/or nursing to their networks of care as soon as possible, so that they and their families, including infant children, can pursue their immigration cases and tend to their health-related needs in safe and humane conditions. Each day that passes without such a policy places more families at risk.”

Nearly one year ago, on Nov. 1, 2021, 11 U.S. senators wrote to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas recommending DHS adopt a policy that: “Minimize[s] the time that people … and their families are in CBP custody to the minimum time period necessary to process them for release from CBP custody,” among other protective measures. CBP subsequently issued new guidelines with limited safeguards on Nov. 23, 2021, but the updated guidelines confirmed CBP’s plans to continue detaining this population and did not include expedited processing in its policy.

“There’s simply no way for people to obtain adequate reproductive health care in CBP custody,” said Esmeralda Flores, senior policy advocate at the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “We’re talking about facilities that are notorious for degrading conditions and medical neglect across the board. Pregnant, nursing, and postpartum people must be released to obtain the standard of care they need and deserve.”

Today’s letter details a past complaint of an incident from February 2020, in which a woman represented by ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties and Jewish Family Service of San Diego was arrested by Border Patrol officials while in active labor and then denied adequate medical care and forced to give birth while holding onto a garbage can at the Chula Vista Border Patrol station. The mother and her newborn U.S. citizen baby were forced to spend a night of postpartum detention in the Border Patrol station. A subsequent DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) report featured disturbing images of the mother laying on a concrete bench of a Border Patrol cell with her newborn U.S. citizen baby, wrapped in an aluminum blanket for warmth.

“We have seen the results of CBP’s egregious treatment of pregnant and postpartum people and their infant children, including when it has led to life-threatening situations, after these vulnerable migrants enter into our care for respite shelter services,” said Kate Clark, Esq. senior director of immigration services at Jewish Family Service of San Diego. “All people deserve safe and adequate reproductive health care that upholds their dignity and autonomy, including those seeking their legal right to asylum in the U.S.”

The letter is online here:

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