WASHINGTON — Jewish Family Service of San Diego, the Center for Immigration Law and Policy (CILP) at the UCLA School of Law, the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, and ACLU of Texas, along with over 175 advocacy organizations, medical professionals, and individuals sent a letter today to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Acting Commissioner Troy Miller demanding CBP uphold the reproductive rights and health of migrants in the wake of new evidence of harm. The 180 signatories reasserted demands made since April 2020 that CBP strictly limit its detention of pregnant, postpartum, and nursing persons and their families to the minimum time necessary to ready them for release to their networks of care in the United States.
Today’s letter follows multiple unaddressed letters from advocacy groups and medical professionals, including an October 2022 letter signed by 130 signatories, and after over 10,000 individuals sent messages to former CBP Commissioner Magnus.
“How many instances of cruelty and neglect do we need to convince CBP that the agency must urgently make changes to its current policies?” said Monika Langarica, staff attorney at UCLA Center for Immigration Law and Policy. “It is past time for CBP to adopt a policy of consistently expediting the release of people who are pregnant, postpartum, and nursing. We keep ringing alarm bells, and CBP keeps choosing to look the other way, instead of adopting clear and obvious solutions.”
Since the October 2022 letter, advocacy groups have learned of multiple new instances of harm, including a January 2023 incident, in which Border Patrol agents apprehended and transported a pregnant woman who was having contractions to a San Diego hospital, and then attempted to separate her from her school-aged daughter. The agents communicated that they would also return the woman to the Border Patrol station after medical treatment, where she would be at increased risk. It took the intervention of the treating physician and advocates with Jewish Family Service of San Diego to prevent the agents from returning her to the station and from separating her from her child.
“All people deserve safe and adequate reproductive health care, including those seeking their legal right to asylum in the U.S.,” said Kate Clark, Esq., senior director of immigration services at Jewish Family Service of San Diego. “It’s past time for CBP to stop perpetuating avoidable harm and heed the demands of medical professionals, advocacy orgs and the thousands of individuals who have called for change.”
In another instance, in March 2023, a woman in her fourth month of pregnancy was apprehended by Border Patrol near McAllen, Texas, and was detained in Border Patrol custody. After eight days in custody without access to basic necessities, she was summarily expelled to Guatemala, presumably pursuant to Title 42, without being given an opportunity to seek asylum in the United States.
“CBP must expedite the processing of people who are pregnant, postpartum, and/or nursing, and their families, to minimize the time they are in CBP custody,” said Felicia Gomez, immigrants’ rights senior policy advocate at the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “The only way to ensure migrants receive the reproductive care they need and deserve is for CBP to release them, so they can pursue their immigration cases.”
A full copy of the letter, outlining multiple instances of harm, is available here.