WASHINGTON – On Monday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a policy statement to address the treatment of pregnant, postpartum, breastfeeding and infant detainees following a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report requested by Rep. Grijalva and a critical Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) memo which detailed the inadequate and often dangerous conditions in which pregnant women and infants encountered while in CBP custody.
“I appreciate this renewed effort to address the immense shortcomings from DHS and CBP in implementing policies that are safe, humane and reflective of our values. The Department of Homeland Security and CBP must take additional steps to address the broad deficiencies and should use preexisting reports to issue the strongest guidance possible that not only meet the national standards of care, but establish accountability mechanisms for when these standards are not met,” said Rep. Grijalva. “It is clear we must reconsider the detention of pregnant, postpartum immigrants and infants, and instead focus on providing them safe and appropriate care. I urge the forthcoming implementing guidance to center efforts around placing these individuals in more appropriate community-based alternatives to detention, and encourage the agencies to work with the medical community to develop a comprehensive plan for those pregnant women and infants that come into contact with CBP. We must implement real changes in policy to rebuild our asylum system and welcome people with dignity and compassion. Vague policies that leave room for errors are unacceptable when dealing with this high risk population.”
The internal CBP policy statement on Pregnant, Postpartum, Nursing Individuals, and Infants in Custody can be found here.
Prior to the OIG Report, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva requested a GAO report in November 2017 to address the treatment of pregnant women in prisons and detention facilities. His original letter was joined by 30 Members of Congress. The GAO report issued in 2020 found that detentions of non-criminal pregnant women accounted for between 91 to 97 percent of the total detentions and that many detention facilities lacked the full spectrum of care that pregnant women require. Since the initial request for an investigation, incidences of abuse and mistreatment of detained pregnant women have persisted, with numerous reports detailing the mishandlings by United States Marshall Services (USMS).