An eight-and-a-half month pregnant migrant woman travelling from El Salvador was stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol after crossing the Rio Grande, and while the anonymous woman began experiencing labor contractions U.S. border agents took her to a hospital where American doctors gave her medications that would stop her labor and was quickly sent back to Mexico.
The Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, officially called the Migrant Protection Protocols, has demanded that migrants who wish to seek asylum must go through the process outside of the United States, leaving many to wait in Mexican cities along the border. Additionally, President Trump has pushed for “safe third country” agreements with Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. These agreements urge those nations to absorb some of the migrants who wish to seek asylum in the United States. The agreement with Guatemala, which was signed by President Trump and the Guatemalan minister of interior in July, states that any migrants who travelled by land through Guatemala and did not first seek asylum there will be automatically ineligible to seek asylum in the United States.
The woman is now waiting in a tent camp in Matamoros, Mexico with her young daughter, and is due to give birth to her second child any day. According to Jodi Goodwin, her attorney, she is scared to give birth in the street or in a migrant shelter. Pregnant women are especially vulnerable in these overcrowded shelters due to lack of access to clean water, food, or adequate medical care. While the Department of Homeland Security has said that vulnerable populations may be exempt from the “Remain in Mexico” policy, they have released statements saying that pregnant women are not inherently classified as vulnerable, and will be considered for exemption on a case-by-case basis.
There have been six cases where pregnant women have been sent back to Mexico due to this policy. U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley from Oregon has urged that the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security open an investigation into these cases.
Sources: Los Angeles Times 5/19/2019; CBS News 8/11/2019; New York Times 8/18/2019; Associated Press 9/6/2019; The Guardian 9/6/2019; Time 9/7/2019