WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, on Mexican Mother’s Day, 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, and the ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties (ACLUF-SDIC) sent a Mother’s Day petition signed by more than 900 advocacy organizations and individuals to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Acting Commissioner Troy Miller. The petition demands changes in CBP policy to minimize harm to people who are pregnant, postpartum and nursing in the agency’s custody.

In light of growing evidence of CBP’s mistreatment of people who are pregnant, postpartum and nursing, this “Mother’s Day card” to CBP Commissioner Miller once more urges the agency to uphold this vulnerable population’s rights to humane treatment and access to proper medical care. Today’s petition repeats the organizations’ demand that CBP strictly limit its detention of people who are pregnant, postpartum, and nursing, and their families, to the minimum time necessary to process them for release to their networks of care in the United States.

The coalition has called for these changes since 2020, when an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General, prompted by the ACLUF-SDIC and Jewish Family Service of San Diego, confirmed CBP’s mistreatment of a woman who was forced to give birth at the Chula Vista Border Patrol Station. 

“Four years after we first demanded accountability for CBP’s horrific mistreatment of pregnant people in its custody, the agency has still failed to take meaningful action to protect the wellbeing of this vulnerable population,” said Monika Langarica, staff attorney at UCLA Center for Immigration Law and Policy. “People with reproductive health needs should be in the care of their communities, not subjected to inhumane conditions in CBP custody. We continue to demand common sense solutions to ensure pregnant, postpartum and nursing people are treated with dignity and fairness and that the traumatic experience of our client who was forced to give birth in a Border Patrol station never repeats.” 

“It is well past time that CBP strictly limit its detention of pregnant, postpartum and nursing persons and their families to the minimum time necessary,” said Kate Clark, Esq., senior director of immigration services at Jewish Family Service of San Diego, operator of the San Diego Rapid Response Network Migrant Shelter Services. “This year, as many people prepare to celebrate the mother figures in their life on Mother’s Day, we hope that Acting Commissioner Miller and his team consider the mothers in CBP custody, and finally implement the desperately needed measures we have been calling for.”

Since the organizations sent their last letter in this series in April 2023, they have learned of multiple new accounts of harm toward pregnant, nursing and postpartum people in CBP custody. Alejandro* and his wife, Cristina*, were seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border in late 2023, when they were detained and separated by CBP. Despite being pregnant at the time, Cristina was subjected to 14 agonizing days of CBP detention, during which she did not have access to adequate medical care. CBP released Alejandro after about 13 days of CBP detention, but Cristina was transferred to long-term immigration detention. Soon thereafter, Cristina suffered a painful miscarriage before being deported and permanently separated from Alejandro.

“All people deserve safe and adequate health care, including those exercising their legal and human right to seek asylum in the United States. CBP has a responsibility to provide proper medical care to anyone in their custody, as outlined in its National Standards on Transport, Escort, Detention and Search (TEDS). The conditions inside detention make it impossible for CBP to provide the level of care needed for people who are pregnant, postpartum or nursing,” said Felicia Gomez, immigrants’ rights senior policy advocate at the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “This vulnerable population must be protected and released as soon as possible to the medical facilities, organizations and communities of care that can provide the level of support they need and deserve. This Mother’s Day, we once again call on CBP to limit the detention of people who are pregnant, postpartum or nursing. For as long as this dangerous practice continues, we will not relent in our calls for change.”

The petition is available online here, along with previous efforts: www.jfssd.org/pregnantpeople.

Individuals and organizations are encouraged to add their signature at bit.ly/CBPMothersDayPetition by May 30. An updated petition will be sent on May 31.

*Pseudonyms are used for the story shared.