Woman suspected of crossing border illegally gives birth at Border Patrol office

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

The 27-year-old woman and her family were spotted walking about a mile east of the Otay Mesa Port of Entry around 2:30 p.m. 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 obviously 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 began to go into labor, officials said.

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

The woman gave birth around 3 p.m. to a baby girl, and the two were transported to a hospital for further care.

The mother and baby are currently 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.

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

The care of pregnant women detained in Customs and Border Protection and Border Patrol facilities has come under scrutiny by the ACLU 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,” said staff attorney 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.”

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