ACLU requests review of treatment of pregnant women at Border Patrol facilities

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SAN DIEGO — The San Diego branch of the American Civil Liberties Union filed an administrative complaint Wednesday calling for a review of the treatment of pregnant women detained at Border Patrol facilities.

The ACLU alleges in its complaint that pregnant detainees have reported abuse and neglect while in U.S. Customs and Border Protection — CBP — or U.S. Border Patrol custody, including assault, a lack of proper medical care and detention periods that exceed typical detention policies.

A report detailing accounts from more than 100 people who were detained between March and July of last year includes one woman reporting she was thrown face-first into a chain-link fence by a Border Patrol agent. Another woman said she had a miscarriage during her 12-day detention, but did not receive any medical assistance during that time.

The ACLU’s complaint states that CBP policy is not to hold detainees for longer than 72 hours in CBP hold rooms or holding facilities, yet that policy is regularly exceeded. The ACLU alleges long detention periods are coupled with a lack of medical care, spoiled food, overcrowding and freezing temperatures.

The complaint recommends that along with a review of its policies, CBP should no longer detain pregnant women and instead look to release those detainees into U.S. shelters.

“CBP routinely fails to treat its vulnerable detainees with the dignity and respect that all people deserve,” said Mitra Ebadolahi, senior staff attorney for the ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “Anyone who is pregnant requires heightened medical care. CBP and Border Patrol detention facilities are categorically unsuitable to provide this level of care.”

The complaint is the first of four to be filed over the next few weeks, with the upcoming complaints to address sick children, family separation and verbal abuse reported by detainees at border facilities, according to the ACLU.

The CBP did not respond to a request for comment regarding the ACLU’s allegations.

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