House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday demanded an investigation into Homeland Security’s treatment of pregnant illegal immigrants after the ACLU filed a complaint claiming one woman was left to deliver her baby while standing up in a border detention facility.
The unnamed woman from Guatemala repeatedly tried to enter the U.S. with her family, saying they were fleeing a government official from back home and wanted asylum.
They were pushed back across the border into Mexico under one of President Trump’s get-tough policies, and they decided to forgo the process and enter illegally, with the woman eight months pregnant, the American Civil Liberties Union said.
Once arrested, they were taken to a Border Patrol station to be processed, and the woman — whose name is blacked out from the complaint — kept trying to stand to alleviate the pain, ignoring agents’ demands she sit down. Thirty minutes after arriving at the station she “partially delivered her baby into her pants while standing,” the ACLU said, pointing out she was still four weeks from her due date.
She and the baby were taken to the hospital, where an agent was stationed with her the whole time — which the ACLU said was a deep invasion of her privacy, given the nature of post-partum care. Her family was left in Border Patrol custody, denied information about her, the ACLU said in a complaint to the inspector general. The complaint was first reported by Buzzfeed News.
“Very sadly, the appalling and inhumane situation that this woman faced is not an isolated case,” Mrs. Pelosi said in demanding an investigation.
She said she saw “a pattern of U.S. officials denying and delaying medical treatment to pregnant women and subjecting them to prolonged detention and inappropriate treatment in inadequate facilities.”
The Border Patrol issued a statement in February about the birth, saying the family used a ladder to climb over the border wall. The agent who arrested them noticed the woman was pregnant but, the agency said, she didn’t appear to be in distress and didn’t request medical attention.
When the family was being given a medical screening, the woman went into labor, the agency said. It said medical staff and agents cleared a place for her to deliver the baby.
The agency celebrated the birth, congratulating the agents for their handling of it — a very different take than the ACLU, which said the family’s bad treatment began from the moment they were arrested, including a too-bumpy ride from the border to the holding facility.
Accusations against Border Patrol agents over treatment of illegal immigrants have been lodged for years, and previous inspector general probes have generally found them to be unsubstantiated.
Indeed, during the 2014 surge of illegal immigrant children, the inspector general went out of his way to note that agents went above the call of their regular duties to care for the children.