Border patrol agents did not mistreat a pregnant migrant who began giving birth immediately after being caught, the agency’s inspector general said on Friday, denigrating a then-Sen story. Kamala Harris seized it during the presidential campaign.
Ms Harris, echoing a complaint filed by the woman and her husband, said the Guatemalan mother was forced to give birth standing up, “putting her baby in her pants”, because officers did not want to help her. Ms Harris called this “utterly contemptible” and called for an investigation by the Inspector General.
But investigators said they “failed to substantiate” reports of ill-treatment in the incident on February 16, 2020.
The inspector general’s report does not specifically address allegations that the woman gave birth to her child in her own pants, but gives officers a blanket waiver, claiming they followed procedures.
“By examining the circumstances surrounding the delivery at the Chula Vista station, we found that the border patrol was providing adequate medical assistance to the mother and her newborn baby and complying with applicable policies,” the inspector general said. .
But investigators said the baby – a U.S. citizen by birth – was held overnight at a border patrol facility, sleeping on a hard cot with her mother.
The audit found that this was not the first time a newborn baby has been detained for what appears to be too long. The inspector general said officers must find ways to prevent this from happening.
“A BP station is no place for an infant,” wrote a supervisor following Chula Vista’s birth.
However, a few months earlier, another mother and her newborn baby had been detained for three nights, the Inspector General found.
Overall, the audit found that it is impossible to know how often migrants give birth in detention at the border, as customs and border protection do not comprehensively monitor such incidents.
But the audit found dozens of instances from the billing records. In about a third of the cases, the baby and mother were detained overnight.
CBP offered an explanation. In the case of a family detained for three days, the mother claimed she feared being returned to Mexico and it took three days to rule on her request.
In another case, the mother herself was a minor, creating more complications because, by law, there was a need to free up space for her in a health and social service facility.
In five cases, however, the audit indicated that overnight detention could have been avoided had the agency speeded up its processes.
During the February 2020 birth, CBP said the woman gave birth so quickly that officers were unable to process her. After the mother and child were released from the hospital, they had to be taken back to the border patrol station for treatment, and it took until the next morning.
The inspector general said the woman was arrested at 2:30 p.m. and arrived in custody at the border patrol station at 3:00 p.m. A minute later, she was directed to a treatment area and by 3:09 p.m., she had started giving birth, according to video footage.
The baby was born at 3:17 a.m. and doctors contacted her at 3:19 a.m. The mother and child were taken to a local hospital where they stayed for two nights, before being released at 6:10 p.m. on February 18. The mother was returned to the border patrol station for treatment, and the child went with her for family reunification. purposes, CBP said.
They were both released on February 19 at 2:03 p.m.
In its official response, CBP objected to some of the report’s findings regarding its record keeping and said it had already taken steps to facilitate custody of pregnant women.
In February, the Border Patrol released new guidelines allowing for faster treatment and release of populations at risk, which include mothers of newborns.