9 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct in “San Diego” where the event type is “Conditions in Custody”

January 13, 2022

According to a January 2022 Human Rights First report on the “Remain in Mexico” (RMX) program in El Paso, “Some migrants and asylum seekers said CBP officers refused to provide masks to detainees who requested them and that some CBP officers were themselves not consistently wearing personal protective equipment.” In San Diego in early January 2022, one man “reported that CBP officers refused to provide him a mask when he requested one.”

A Shameful Record: Biden Administration’s Use of Trump Policies Endangers People Seeking Asylum (New York: Human Rights First: January 13, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/shameful-record-biden-administration-s-use-trump-policies-endangers-people-seeking-asylum.

Sector(s): El Paso, El Paso Field Office, San Diego, San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Disregard of Public Health

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

January 5, 2022

In the January 8, 2022 San Diego Union-Tribune, reporter Kate Morrissey recounted the experience of two Colombian men who, on January 5, were the first to be sent back to Tijuana under the revived “Remain in Mexico” program. She found that what they underwent “included many of the issues that plagued the program under the Trump administration.”

The Biden administration’s December 2 guidance for the restarted program promised access to counsel. But Morrissey found that “the two Colombian men were not allowed to speak with attorneys while in U.S. custody.” The wife of one of the men, a green card holder in the United States, could have hired an attorney for him to support his claim of fear of return to Mexico, but officials denied his request to call her.

The men, who had turned themselves in to U.S. personnel in order to seek protection after receiving urgent threats in Colombia, recounted poor treatment in CBP custody. They were placed in a cell in a Border Patrol station with “dozens of other men,” forced to sleep on the floor for nearly a week, with lights always on, for lack of bed space. They were not given an opportunity to bathe or shower. “Though they do not speak much English, they realized that agents were speaking badly about them, they said. They recognized words like ‘stupid’ and phrases like ‘go back to your country.’”

As required by the new guidelines, a Border Patrol agent asked the men if they were afraid to return to Mexico, although they said “another agent tried to keep that official from asking the question.” Under the Biden administration’s new guidance, after expressing fear the men were entitled to 24 hours to contact an attorney before speaking with an asylum officer. It was during those 24 hours, they said, that CBP personnel refused to allow them “to make any calls or otherwise access legal counsel.”

They said an agent told them that no matter what happened, they would be sent back to Mexico. So, when the asylum officer asked if they wanted to wait longer in custody in order to access attorneys, the men waived that right, not wanting to spend more time in the crowded cell with their fate already decided.

The men added that they were not asked detailed questions about their medical history, even though the Biden administration’s new guidelines specify medical conditions for exemption from the program (original link). Though the guidance directs that those subject to Remain in Mexico are to receive COVID-19 vaccinations if they need them, one man who had only received the first of his two shots was sent over the border before officials could administer his vaccine.

CBP meanwhile confused the men’s paperwork, Morrissey found. Each man had the first page of the other’s notice to appear in court. And at first, they were scheduled for hearings months beyond the six-month limit that the Biden administration had agreed with Mexico. They managed to reschedule for February after raising the issue with their asylum officer.

Now in Tijuana, the Colombian men told Morrissey that they are “confused and terrified.” They refused to provide their names, fearing that their notoriety leaves them exposed to extortion or attack. “We’re the two from Colombia,” one said. “Everyone knows we’re them. We already have problems.”

— Kate Morrissey, “U.S. failure to follow Remain in Mexico rules show program hasn’t changed as promised” (San Diego, The San Diego Union-Tribune, January 8, 2022) https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/immigration/story/2022-01-08/remain-in-mexico-returns-to-tijuana.

— Robert Silvers, “Guidance regarding the Court-Ordered Reimplementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols” (Washington: Department of Homeland Security, December 2, 2021) https://www.dhs.gov/publication/court-ordered-reimplementation-mpp-policy-guidance.

Sector(s): San Diego, San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Dangerous Deportation, Denial of Access to Counsel

Last Known Accountability Status: No Steps Taken

Victim Classification: Colombia, Single Adult

August 2021

“In August 2021, DHS subjected three Nicaraguan political dissidents to a lateral expulsion flight after they sought protection near McAllen, Texas,” reads a Human Rights First report.

DHS officers verbally abused them, threatening to release dogs to attack them. The officers woke the men at 1:00 am, handcuffed them, and forced them to stand for more than two hours before the expulsion flight. The officers lied to the men telling them that they would be sent to California and permitted to pursue their asylum cases, but instead expelled them to Tijuana. From there, Mexican immigration officials transported them to Mexico’s southern border and attempted to deport them to Guatemala, but Guatemalan immigration authorities refused to accept them, leaving them stranded in southern Mexico, according to Anaís Catalina, an advocate assisting them.

— Julia Neusner, Kennji Kizuka, “Illegal and Inhumane”: Biden Administration Continues Embrace of Trump Title 42 Policy as Attacks on People Seeking Refuge Mount (New York: Human Rights First, October 21, 2021) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/illegal-and-inhumane-biden-administration-continues-embrace-trump-title-42-policy-attacks.

Sector(s): Rio Grande Valley, San Diego

Agency(ies): DHS

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Lying or Deliberate Misleading, Threat of Violence

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Nicaragua, Single Adult

March 7, 2021

A report from the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK detailed the experience of a Cuban asylum seeker in Border Patrol custody in Yuma, Arizona and Campo (Pine Valley), California.

A Cuban man and his wife crossed into the United States and were detained. He was searched and their documents were confiscated. The man was separated from his wife, even though his wife told the agents they were together.

He was transferred to Campo BP Station in California, and when he was being transferred he was told he would be reunited with his wife at the detention center. While in detention, he was not allowed to shower for five days, and the lights were always kept on.

There, a border patrol agent interviewed him in Spanish. The agent asked him about his relatives but did not ask anything about asylum. The man asked if he could present his case. The CBP agent said no, as that was for a courtroom with a lawyer. The man asked why the agent didn’t ask him why he left Cuba, and the agent still said no. After five days, they transported the man to expel him, very early in the morning.

The man says he was disoriented but once he heard he was being expelled he said he can’t leave without his wife. He was told his wife would be joining him soon. This was not true. He was not reunited with his wife and was expelled to Tijuana, Baja California in the early morning hours. A week later, he tried to cross again at Yuma as his wife was still in CBP custody. He was then expelled to Nogales.

KBI filed a March 24, 2021 complaint with the DHS Office on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). On April 23, CRCL emailed that “they received the complaint and forwarded it to the OIG. No details were provided about disciplinary actions for officers or recourse for victims of abuse.”

Due Process Denied (United States: Kino Border Initiative (KBI) and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, August 2021) https://networklobby.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/KINO-NETWORK-CBP-Abuses-consolidated.pdf.

Sector(s): San Diego, Yuma

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Confiscation of Documents, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, Family Separation, Lying or Deliberate Misleading, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Complaint Filed with OPR, Shared with DHS OIG

Victim Classification: Cuba, Family Unit

September 8, 2020

An October 2020 ACLU document recounted the experience of “Ms. Eva Doe,” who fled Cuba with her husband in June 2019. When they arrived at the Rio Grande Valley’s Hidalgo port of entry to request asylum in September 2019, they were taken into CBP custody. After two days, they were given an immigration court date and sent back across the border into Mexico, under the “Remain in Mexico” program, to await their proceedings. In March 2020, after being brought into the United States for several hearings, an immigration judge denied Ms. Doe’s and her husband’s asylum petition.

The ACLU complaint continues:

They both reserved appeal and were returned to Reynosa for an indefinite period of time. There, the couple faced the tremendous challenges of navigating a global pandemic in a foreign country, without critical resources. Ms.Doe and her husband both fell ill, yet due to their lack of access to medical care, they could not get treatment. Ms. Doe’s husband additionally suffered threats and extortion in Mexico.

Fearful of ever-present threats to their safety, overwhelmed by unrelenting pandemic circumstances, and without legal counsel, the couple was unable to timely submit their immigration appeal. Consequently, the pair made the difficult decision to request asylum once more at a port of entry—this time, in Tijuana. When they arrived at the port of entry, however, U.S. immigration officers told the couple that the border was “closed” due to the coronavirus pandemic, and turned them away.

On September 8, 2020, Ms. Doe and her husband crossed the border between ports of entry, turning themselves in to Border Patrol agents and requesting asylum again. The ACLU continues:

Agents transported Ms. Doe and her husband to the Chula Vista Border Patrol Station. Once there, Ms. Doe notified the agents that she was pregnant, even showing them photos from a recent ultrasound she had undergone while in Tijuana. Notwithstanding, Border Patrol agents separated Ms. Doe from her husband immediately after processing.[6]

The Border Patrol forced Ms. Doe to remove all outer layers of clothing, leaving her upper body clothed in only a sleeveless, thin-strapped blouse. Border Patrol agents gave Ms. Doe a floor mat and silver colored plastic (Mylar) sheet to use as a blanket before placing her in a large holding cell.[7] The toilet and sink to which Ms. Doe had access in her holding cell lacked safeguards for privacy. Ms. Doe was never allowed to bathe while in Border Patrol custody and was instead provided a single moist towelette to clean her entire body every three to four days. She was also only provided a small plastic stick with a sponge tip every three to four days to brush her teeth. The Border Patrol kept the cell lights on 24 hours per day, which made it difficult for Ms. Doe to fall asleep. Ms. Doe felt very cold in the holding cell, unable to warm up with the Mylar sheet, and unable to sleep or rest. Despite her multiple requests, Ms. Doe was denied access to her prenatal vitamins and was never given an equivalent supplement while in CBP custody.

Border Patrol then separated Ms. Doe and her husband:

On her seventh day in Border Patrol custody, Ms. Doe observed agents taking her husband and his belongings out of the holding cell in which he had been detained. She was never given an opportunity to talk to him before he was taken away. She panicked as she saw the agents removing him from the facility, and began banging on the cell door pleading for the agents’ attention. An agent informed Ms. Doe that her husband was being transferred to an ICE detention center and that she would soon be transferred as well. She recalls an agent explaining, to her horror, that many pregnant women are detained in ICE custody and that she could give birth while detained.

As of ACLU’s October 2020 filing, Ms. Doe had been given a November 2020 court date and released from CBP custody. Her husband remained held at ICE’s Otay Mesa Detention Center.

Ms. Doe is currently five months pregnant. Her separation from the father of her child has caused her stress, anxiety, and emotional turmoil. She fears that her husband might not be present for their first child’s birth, and that she will have to go through the experience alone without his support. Worse yet, Ms. Doe’s source of greatest distress is the possibility that her husband will be deported to danger in their country of origin, without ever being be able to see or hold their child.

— “Appendix of Unresolved Complaints” (El Paso: ACLU, March 3, 2021): 123 https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/appendix-13-unresolved-oig-complaints.

Footnotes from above:

[6]: On April 15, 2020, the ACLU submitted another administrative complaint regarding the separation of families during CBP detention and processing. A copy of this complaint is appended hereto as Exhibit C. It is also available online. See AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF SAN DIEGO & IMPERIAL COUNTIES, ET AL., ADMINISTRATIVE COMPLAINT RE: SEPARATION OF FAMILIES VIA CBP DETENTION AND PROCESSING, AND THE AGENCY’S REFUSAL TO IMPLEMENT A DETAINEE LOCATOR SYSTEM (Apr. 2020) [hereinafter “April 2020 Complaint”], https://www.aclusandiego.org/wp- content/uploads/2020/04/2020-04-15-OIG-Complaint-3-FINAL.pdf. Today’s second addendum echoes the troubling themes regarding family separation and incommunicado detention set forth in the April 2020 complaint.

[7]: During her first night in custody, Ms. Doe was detained with one other person. For the remainder of her time in Border Patrol custody, Ms. Doe was detained completely alone and separated from her husband.

Sector(s): San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Medical Care, Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG

Victim Classification: Cuba, Family Unit

July 7, 2020

A complaint to the DHS Inspector-General, submitted by the ACLU Foundation of San Diego and Imperial Counties and ACLU Border Rights Center, denounced “CBP officials’ egregious verbal abuse of detained individuals,” including “many instances in which Border Patrol agents verbally abused individuals, including children, in their custody,” including asylum seekers.

Agents berated migrants for traveling to the United States and attempting to exercise their legal right to seek asylum.[16] “Xenophobic nationalism is widespread,” and derogatory comments are often accompanied by threatened or actual physical violence.[17] Agents bully LGBTQ people, equate migrants to animals, and ridicule and humiliate parents trying to protect their children.[18]

The complaint cited numerous explicit examples, some of them reproduced below. All are from interviews with migrants completed between March and July of 2019 with people recently released from Border Patrol custody in San Diego and Tijuana.

This abuse may involve bullying, harassment, threats of violence or other harm, denigration, ridicule, racism, and misstatements about U.S. immigration law, including an individual’s right to seek asylum. Recently detained individuals related the following statements to our investigator: [28]

– “Olvídate del asilo, a la mejor te quitamos a tu hija.”
“Forget about asylum, we might just take away your daughter.”
—Border Patrol agent to woman while interrogating her about why she came to the United States.

– “No mantenemos hijos de nadie.”
“We don’t take care of anyone’s children.”
—Border Patrol agent to a mother when she asked for food for her 1-year old child who had not had any food to eat for an entire day.

– “Cabrona, échate para atrás.”
“You bastard, get back over there.”
—Border Patrol agent to woman as she was entering the country and injured from crossing the border wall.

– “¿Desgraciada, ¿porque tienes tantos niños si no los puedes cuidar? Puta, prostituta.”
“Disgraced woman, why do you have so many kids if you can’t take care of them? Slut, prostitute.”
—Border Patrol agent to a detained mother.

– “¿Cuáles de ustedes maricas sufren de asma?”
“Which of you faggots suffer from asthma?”
—Border Patrol agent to a holding cell of young boys aged 13 to 17.

– “If you keep complaining I will put you with the dogs.”
—Border Patrol agent to woman when she refused to undress for a search during apprehension.

– “Son indios de pata rajada, solo usan sus hijos para entrar.”
“You are all [derogatory expression referring to indigenous peoples], you only use your children to enter [the United States].”
—Border Patrol agent to detained father.

– “¡Aquí no se hace lo que voz dice, se hace lo que yo digo!”
“Here we don’t do what you say, you do what I say!
—Border Patrol agent to pregnant woman asking for water.

– “Are you f***ing retarded? Stop playing with that s***.”
—Border Patrol agent to children playing in holding cell.

– “Váyanse de aquí, ¿qué hacen aquí sí ni hablan inglés?, no valen nada.”
“Get out of here, what are you doing here if you don’t even speak English, you are worthless.”
—Border Patrol agent to woman and her family upon apprehension.

– “No estás en tu casa, ¿tienes mierda en la cabeza?”
“You’re not at home, do you have s*** for brains?”
—Border Patrol agent to woman who asked for a plastic cup to drink water.

– “Joder con ustedes, por eso no mejoran en su país.”
“I’ve f***ing had it with you, this is why you guys don’t advance in your country.”
—Border Patrol agent to detained woman who did not understand his Spanish.

– “I don’t have to tell you, you broke the law, you have no rights.”
—Border Patrol agent to woman when she asked what was on the form she was being instructed to sign.

– “¡Levántense, puercas!”
“Get up, pigs!”
—Border Patrol agent to a cell of detained women.

– “You are an idiot but you sure are good at popping out kids.”
—Border Patrol agent to detained mother.

— “Re: U.S. Border Patrol’s Verbal Abuse of Detained Individuals” (San Diego and El Paso: ACLU Foundation San Diego and Imperial Counties, ACLU Border Rights Center, July 7, 2020) https://cbpabusestest2.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/2020-07-07-dhs-oig-cmplt-4-final.pdf.

Footnotes from above:

[16]: Josiah Heyman, Jeremy Slack & Daniel E. Martínez, Why Border Patrol Agents and Cbp Officers Should Not Serve as Asylum Officers, Ctr. For Migration Studies (June 21, 2019), https://cmsny.org/publications/heyman-slack-martinez-062119/.

[17]: Id.

[18]: See, e.g., id.; Grace Panetta, Border Patrol officials reportedly forced a Honduran migrant to walk around a detention center holding a sign reading ‘I like men’ in Spanish, BUS. INSIDER, July 5, 2019, https://www.businessinsider.com/detained-migrant-forced-hold-sign-reading-i-like-men-report-2019-7?op=1; Nick Valencia, et al., Border Patrol agents allegedly tried to shame a migrant by making him hold a sign reading ‘I like men,’ emails show, CNN, July 4, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/04/us/honduran-migrant-shamed-border-patrol/index.html; Andrew Gumbel, ‘They Were Laughing at Us’: Immigrants Tell of Cruelty, Illness and Filth in US Detention, GUARDIAN, Sept. 12, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/sep/12/us-immigration-detention-facilities; Cristina Novoa, 5 Revelations From Children in Border Patrol Facilities, CENTER AM. PROGRESS, July 3, 2019, https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/early-childhood/news/2019/07/03/471808/5-revelations-children-border-patrol-facilities/ (“Beyond demonstrating a shocking lack of compassion toward frightened children, testimonies also show that some guards appear to deliberately scare children in their custody”).

[28]: Most of ACLU’s interviews were conducted in Spanish, with contemporaneous notes taken in Spanish by our investigator. Where our notes contain the original Spanish quotes, we have provided that original (as relayed by the interviewee to our investigator) as well as our English translation. At times, our investigator memorialized a statement in English only during her interview (via simultaneous translation). In such cases, we have reproduced her English translation here.
Many of these quotes use degrading and offensive language that we hesitated to reprint. In the end, we decided to reproduce the language reported to remain as faithful as possible to the accounts of those we interviewed.

Sector(s): San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Denial of Food or Water, Denial of Medical Care, Denial of Protection to Most Vulnerable, LGBT Discrimination or Harassment, Lying or Deliberate Misleading, Racial Discrimination or Profiling

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Female, Pregnancy, Single Adult

April 15, 2020

A complaint from the ACLU Foundation of San Diego and Imperial Counties and ACLU Border Rights Center, based on interviews conducted in San Diego and Tijuana, found “a number of troubling cases in which CBP processing and/or detention led to family separations, including:”

* A woman whose heart condition worsened when, during processing, the Border Patrol separated her and her sister and transferred her sister to a different detention center without any advance notice or opportunity to say goodbye;

* A mother and her two sons (one a minor) apprehended by the Border Patrol and detained in a nearby station; when the mother, who had seriously injured her knee during her journey to the United States, was taken to a hospital for surgery, she was separated from her boys, who were left detained separately at the Border Patrol station. After her return from the hospital, the Border Patrol released the mother and minor son into the United States together, but separated the older son from them and transferred him to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) detention; [12]

* A grandmother who Border Patrol agents separated from her nine-year-old grandson after agents told her that his birth certificate was insufficient to establish biological familial ties. The grandmother was left anguished and fearful that her grandson would be given up to a U.S. family for adoption; and

* A family of nine which CBP separated into three different family units—notwithstanding the fact that all nine family members initially entered the United States together—and subjected to the so-called “Migrant Protection Protocols.” The entire family was forcibly removed to Mexico, with each of the three “units” then receiving different master calendar hearing dates. This, in turn, resulted in separate nonrefoulement interviews. The stress of this arbitrary and inefficient separation of family members led the mother in the family to experience hyperventilating, vomiting, headache, and chest pain while awaiting her own nonrefoulement interview.

— “Separation of Families via CBP Detention and Processing, and the Agency’s Refusal to Implement a Detainee Locator System” (San Diego and El Paso, ACLU Foundation San Diego and Imperial Counties, ACLU Border Rights Center, April 15, 2020) https://cbpabusestest2.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/2020-04-15-dhs-oig-cmplt-3-final.pdf.

Footnote from above:

[12]: This family also included a father and two additional minor children, who had been separated from the mother and sons while crossing into the United States. Although the father saw one of his sons through a glass window while detained at the Border Patrol station and tried to explain to agents that his wife and other children were on site, the Border Patrol made no effort to reunite the family, and did not tell the mother that her partner was detained at the same station.

Sector(s): San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Family Separation

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with DHS OIG

Victim Classification: Family Unit

February 18, 2020

An ACLU complaint to the DHS Inspector-General cited the recent case of “Baby Sofía,” a six-week-old infant whose Honduran parents were apprehended in Border Patrol’s San Diego sector (original link).

The agent who transported the family to a nearby Border Patrol station subjected them to a reckless “rough ride,” causing Sofia to be jostled severely in her carrier as the Border Patrol vehicle traversed uneven terrain.[37] At the station, the agent who fingerprinted the family yelled at Gloria [the mother] and told her she was a terrible mother for bringing her baby to the United States.[38]

While the family was in custody, Sofía became ill. Agents brought the mother and daughter to a nearby emergency room, leaving the father in custody.

“At the emergency room, a doctor determined that Sofia was dehydrated and constipated. The doctor explained that there was little he could do for the baby, and insisted that the baby see a pediatrician as soon as possible. Instead—and in direct contravention of this medical advice—the Border Patrol returned Gloria and Sofia to detention.”

Through a second day in custody, the baby’s condition worsened. Mother and daughter were taken to a nearby children’s hospital.

“The examining physician again concluded that the infant was dehydrated and constipated, and administered a rectal suppository to help move the baby’s bowels. The doctor also scolded the Border Patrol agents who had accompanied Gloria and Sofia to the hospital, admonishing them that the conditions inside the facility (as Gloria had described them) ‘[were] no conditions for a newborn.'” Agents failed to follow doctors’ recommendation that the baby be given prune or fruit juice to soften her bowels.

Following two more days in custody and another visit to the emergency room, Border Patrol released the family to the San Diego migrant respite center. Sofía’s mother said that, since a final check-up in Tijuana, the baby’s weight had dropped in custody from 11.46 points to 8.82 pounds.

— ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties, ACLU Border Rights Center, “U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Border Patrol’s Abuse and Mistreatment of Detained Sick Children,” Letter to DHS Inspector-General Joseph V. Cuffari, February 18, 2020 https://cbpabusestest2.files.wordpress.com/2020/10/2020-02-18-dhs-oig-cmplt-2-final.pdf.

Footnotes from above:

[37] A “rough ride” is a euphemism for the practice of intentionally operating a vehicle in a manner that causes passengers physical harm, fear, or other discomfort. See, e.g., A.C. Thompson, “Dirtbag,” “Savages,” “Subhuman”: A Border Patrol Agent’s Hateful Career and the Crime That Finally Ended It, PROPUBLICA, Aug. 16, 2019, https://www.propublica.org/article/border-agents-hateful-career-and-the-crime-that-finally-ended-it; Ieva Jusionyte, Pain on the Border: Fieldnotes from a Migrant Aid Center in Nogales, Mexico, REVISTA: HARVARD REVIEW OF LATIN AMERICA (“Displacements” Issue) (Winter 2017), https://revista.drclas.harvard.edu/book/pain-border.

Infants are uniquely vulnerable to head and spine injuries, especially traumatic brain injuries, even when in appropriate car seats during motor vehicle accidents. See, e.g., Camille L. Stewart et. al., Infant Car Seat Safety and Risk of Head Injury, 49 J. PEDIATRIC SURGERY 193, 195 (2014), https://www.jpedsurg.org/article/S0022-3468(13)00773-2/pdf.

[38] ACLU has additional identifying details about this agent, which it can share with OIG upon request.

Sector(s): San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Medical Care, Rough Rides

Last Known Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Shared with DHS OIG

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Honduras

February 16, 2020

A Guatemalan woman and her family said that, while being processed in the Chula Vista Border Patrol station near San Diego, she was left to give birth “while standing up, holding on to the side of a trash can,” BuzzFeed reported. The woman, pregnant and experiencing contractions, had repeatedly asked the agents for help. “She was repeatedly told to sit down and wait to be processed, she said. …After about 30 minutes, her husband could hear the baby crying through the fabric of her pants.”

The family—father, mother, and two small children—had been sent to Tijuana in May 2019 under the Remain in Mexico program, where they had “spent nine months in a camp” and reported to the port of entry to attend three separate immigration hearings. Their next hearing was scheduled for May 2020; in February the family reported that their Guatemalan persecutors had found them in Tijuana and were threatening them, leading them to cross the border outside the port of entry.

While crossing the desert, the woman went into contractions. “They were soon apprehended by a Border Patrol agent,” BuzzFeed reports.

The woman was in clear distress, and her husband begged the agent for medical attention, the complaint says, but instead the agent loaded the family into his car and giving them a “rough ride” (an abusive practice in which some border agents reportedly purposefully drive badly so as to fling detainees around the car), the complaint says, and brought them to the Chula Vista Border Patrol Station for processing.

“The apprehending agent could visibly see that the woman was pregnant; however, the mother did not appear to be in distress and did not request any medical attention,” read a release from CBP (original link). In April 2020, the ACLU and Jewish Family Service submitted a complaint to the DHS Inspector-General (original link). Thirteen Democratic senators signed a letter to the Inspector-General calling for investigations of this and other recent allegations of mistreatment in custody (original link).

Border Patrol San Diego Sector Chief Aaron Heitke tweeted, “CBP strongly disagrees with the unsubstantiated allegations against our agents & supports what appear to be nothing short of heroic actions by those on scene” (original link).

A July 2021 DHS Inspector General report found that the woman gave birth 17 minutes after arriving at the Border Patrol Station, concluding, “we found Border Patrol provided adequate medical assistance to the mother and her newborn and complied with applicable policies” (original link). The report did find that, after the woman’s release from the hospital, video footage showed her left to sleep overnight with her newborn on a bench in a holding cell at the Chula Vista station.

— Ema O’Connor, “A Woman Gave Birth In A Border Patrol Station Still Wearing Her Pants. Now The Agents Involved Are Being Accused Of Abuse.” (United States: BuzzFeed, April 8, 2020) https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/emaoconnor/pregnant-woman-birth-border-patrol-aclu-complaint.

—” Migrant Mother Gives Birth at Border Patrol Station” (Chula Vista, California: Customs and Border Protection, February 19, 2020) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/local-media-release/migrant-mother-gives-birth-border-patrol-station.

— Monica Y. Langarica, Kate Clark, Dr. Kay Daniels, “U.S. Border Patrol’s Abuse and Mistreatment of [Redacted]” (San Diego: ACLU San Diego and Imperial Counties and Jewish Family Service, April 8, 2020) https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6827805-2020-04-07-OIG-Cmplt-Final-Redacted.html.

Letter from 13 Democratic Senators to DHS Inspector-General (Washington: U.S. Senate, April 8, 2020) https://www.blumenthal.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/2020.04.08%20DHS%20OIG%20Letter%20re%20CBP%20Mistreating%20Pregnant%20Detainees.pdf.

— “Review of the February 16, 2020 Childbirth at the Chula Vista Border Patrol Station” (Washington: DHS Office of the Inspector-General, July 20, 2021) https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2021-07/OIG-21-49-Jul21.pdf.

Sector(s): San Diego

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Denial of Medical Care, Rough Rides

Last Known Accountability Status: Cleared by DHS OIG

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Guatemala, Pregnancy