New details of dire conditions for pregnant women under Trump's 'Remain in Mexico' policy

ABC News 2 months ago

Several pregnant women who are seeking asylum in the U.S. and were sent back to wait in Mexico by the Trump administration are struggling to access food, water and basic medical care while facing threats of violence and kidnapping, according to a government filing from immigrant rights advocates.

A formal complaint filed against the Department of Homeland Security by the ACLU in Texas last week details multiple accounts from unidentified migrant women subjected to the Trump administration policy known as “Remain in Mexico.”

PHOTO: A U.S. Border Patrol agent instructs immigrants after they were taken into custody on July 02, 2019 in Los Ebanos, Texas.
A U.S. Border Patrol agent instructs immigrants after they were taken into custody on July 02, 2019 in Los Ebanos, Texas.

One of the women, a 22-year-old from Honduras, is nearly eight months pregnant and has a 5-year-old daughter. Her lawyers say she and her daughter were kidnapped while traveling to the U.S., managed to escape and apply for asylum, but were sent back to Mexico over a month ago.

The “Remain in Mexico” policy, formally referred to as the Migrant Protection Protocols, applies to migrants traveling to the border. About 50,000 asylum seekers from Central American countries have been turned back under the policy, according to a DHS spokesperson.

The ACLU letter to the office tasked with oversight of DHS describes the impact of the U.S. government repeatedly returning migrants to Mexican border towns. An 18-year-old expecting mother from Ecuador was returned to Mexico multiple times, the ACLU said. In between her return trips to a Mexican border town she was kidnapped and her family was extorted for her release.

Another woman was ordered to return to Mexico with her 2-year-old daughter. A medical aid worker in Mexico examined the toddler and diagnosed the girl with dengue fever, according to the ACLU lawyers. But the woman and child don’t have access to medication in their make-shift encampment and have been sleeping under a tree in Matamoros, Mexico, according to the complaint.

Multiple women, who remain anonymous in the letter, said they were held in overcrowded Border Patrol stations longer than the mandated 72-hour limit before being returned to Mexico.

PHOTO: Immigrants wait to be interviewed by U.S. Border Patrol agents after they were taken into custody on July 02, 2019 in McAllen, Texas.
Immigrants wait to be interviewed by U.S. Border Patrol agents after they were taken into custody on July 02, 2019 in McAllen, Texas.

“Pregnant women should never have to worry about their safety or their health during pregnancy, and yet this is the situation CBP is forcing upon these expecting mothers,” said Astrid Dominguez, director of the ACLU Border Rights Center.

DHS did not return ABC News' repeated requests for comment.

ABC's Josh Hoyos contributed to this report.

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