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Guatemalan woman who gave birth in Border Patrol station says requests for help were ignored

Guatemalan woman who gave birth in Border Patrol station says requests for help were ignored
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A complaint filed on behalf of a Guatemalan woman who gave birth in a Border Patrol station in February claims personnel disregarded her pleas for medical attention and left her to clutch the side of a garbage can during part of the birth.

The complaint, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Jewish Family Service with the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, says the Border Patrol account of the incident is inconsistent with the woman’s.

The Border Patrol, in a statement published Feb. 19, said the woman “did not appear to be in distress and did not request any medical attention” when she was apprehended along with her husband and her two daughters, and said that staff “prepared an area for the mother to give birth” at the Chula Vista, Calif., station.

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In contrast, the woman, identified only as “Ana” in the complaint, said she had to partially give birth while standing and holding on to the side of a trash can for support. The complaint alleges that her husband heard the baby crying and reached for the baby’s head along with an agent and medical staff, some of whom were not wearing gloves.

“Because of those discrepancies and what we know are false statements and details, we are asking for the office of the inspector general’s investigation to get at what exactly happened and to take it from there,” Monika Langarica, an attorney with the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, told the Los Angeles Times.

The woman and her newborn were later taken to Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center where they were discharged and returned to the station for the night, during which the newborn was not given a sufficient blanket, the complaint claims, adding that Ana was only allowed to shower when she was released to the Jewish Family Service Migrant Family Shelter three days after giving birth.

“Ana gave birth in her pants in a detention facility holding onto a trash can with ungloved staff reaching out for her baby. This is not OK in any circumstance,” Kate Clark, an attorney with Jewish Family Service, told the Times.

In a statement to The Hill, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said it strongly disagreed with what i said were "unsubstantiated allegations against our agents."

CBP treats those in our custody with dignity and respect and provides multiple avenues to report any misconduct," CBP said. 

"We take all allegations seriously and investigate all formal complaints. U.S. Border Patrol agents are expected to adhere to our policies and procedures, including those outlined in our National Standards on Transportation, Escort, Detention and Search. The allegations do not equate to what we know to be common practice at our facilities."