A 19-year-old Honduran asylum seeker who gave birth at a Chula Vista hospital said Border Patrol threatened to separate her from her newborn girl, according to her attorneys.
“I know she’s been through a lot,” said Erika Pinheiro, Litigation and Policy Director at immigration legal services firm Al Otro Lado. “I can’t imagine the anguish she was going through when she thought she would be separated from her child."
The teenage Honduran migrant-- whose name we are not publishing for security purposes—told Al Otro Lado that shortly after giving birth at Scripps Mercy Chula Vista on Friday, Border Patrol agents told her they would keep the child in the states and send the mother back to Mexico.
“As a mother myself, I can’t imagine what that would feel like,” said Pinheiro.
A spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement the mother and newborn were “never separated.”
For the past few months, the woman had been waiting in Tijuana for her American asylum court case as part of the Trump administration’s controversial “Remain in Mexico” policy, according to Al Otro Lado.
She was pregnant at the time.
But when she experienced complications with her pregnancy, the woman was unable to gain entry to a Tijuana hospital.
“Generally it’s very difficult-to-impossible for asylum seekers in Mexico to access public health care,” explained Pinheiro.
The expecting mother eventually started getting contractions, crossed the border and presented herself to Border Patrol agents, said Pinheiro.
CBP said agents apprehended the woman when she crossed the border illegally and transported her to Scripps Mercy Hospital Chula Vista.
Al Otro Lado attorneys said Border Patrol initially did not permit them to contact the woman, showing NBC 7 photos of agents standing by in the Maternity Ward.
But on Monday, attorneys were able to meet with the woman, and CBP said they released her from custody into the U.S. with a Notice to Appear.
Pinheiro said media attention helped “change” CBP’s decision, however, she addressed would-be critics of the woman entering illegally and then having a child stateside.
“That’s not the point,” said the attorney.
“No matter what someone does, once they’re in U.S. government custody, they should have the right to speak to an attorney and the right to a fair hearing before they have their child removed from their custody,” Pinheiro said.
Al Otro Lado attorneys said by Monday evening, both mother and daughter were together at Rady Children’s Hospital.