Pregnant Asylum-Seekers Barred From U.S. Entry For Court Hearings

Feb 23, 2020
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Immigration has been a top priority for President Trump. And under his so-called remain in Mexico program, pregnant asylum-seekers are being barred from entering the United States for their court dates. Max Rivlin-Nadler of member station KPBS in San Diego has this report.

MAX RIVLIN-NADLER, BYLINE: Karina and her husband say they fled gang death threats in El Salvador in 2018. We're using just her first name because she's still concerned for her safety. She was processed at the San Ysidro port of entry last August when she was already three months pregnant. Karina was sent back to Mexico to wait for her court date in San Diego. But when she arrived at the port of entry for her January appointment, she says Customs and Border Protection agents turned her away.

KARINA: (Speaking Spanish).

RIVLIN-NADLER: She says she was eight months pregnant at the time. Karina isn't alone. In recent weeks, at least four other women say the same thing happened to them. Some say they were given new court dates for the month after they would give birth. Others say their cases were closed after they weren't allowed into the U.S. for their court date.

SANDRA: (Speaking Spanish).

RIVLIN-NADLER: Sandra, another asylum-seeker, said she felt bad that she wasn't allowed to see the judge. She was seven months pregnant when she was barred from entering the U.S. for a hearing in January. Sandra said that her case was then closed by the immigration judge because she wasn't at her court hearing. Maya Ibars is an attorney with Al Otro Lado, which provides legal assistance to asylum-seekers. She says this is typical of the problems with remain in Mexico, which is also known as the Migrant Protection Protocols or MPP. She says the U.S. is delaying the pregnant women's court dates to prevent them from giving birth to U.S. citizens.

MAYA IBARS: The MPP guidelines clearly state that pregnant women are not supposed to be at MPP. So the fact that CBP is not only putting them in MPP but prohibiting them from accessing their court dates is just ridiculous, ludicrous and infuriating.

RIVLIN-NADLER: CBP says pregnant women are not excluded from MPP but are instead placed in it on a case-by-case basis. CBP and the Department of Homeland Security did not respond to requests for comment about the new court dates for pregnant women. Advocates say that conditions in Mexican hospitals for migrants are dire and unsanitary. Karina, with legal assistance from Al Otro Lado, got into the United States to continue her asylum case. She's due to give birth next week. For NPR News, I'm Max Rivlin-Nadler in Tijuana. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.