Brief separation was required for emergency medical treatment and COVID-19 protocols;
Baby and mother were reunited at the first opportunity
Joint statement from U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan and U.S. Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott:
“Earlier this week a misleading story was published by the Los Angeles Times that, from our perspective, sought to villainize Border Patrol agents by alleging that they intentionally separated an illegal alien mother from her newly born child. This allegation is false. We are sick and tired of our agents being villainized for placing their own personal safety and security behind that of others, and for enforcing the Congressionally-enacted laws of the United States. We believe any rational person that reviews this entire illegal entry and the subsequent actions taken by the agents involved will come to the same conclusion that we did; these agents did everything in their power to ensure the safety of the baby, as well as the mother, who chose to illegally enter the United States, at night, in a relatively remote area, while in labor and ultimately giving birth in a field just north of the Rio Grande River. These agents also did everything in their control to keep them together despite the difficult circumstances and health restrictions related to the pandemic. We challenge any allegations to the contrary.”
The below actions and timeline, guided by efforts to preserve the baby’s life, demonstrate the complexity of balancing homeland security and ensuring the well-being of those that manipulate the laws of the United States. In this case, the mother had been encountered illegally entering the United States on three separate occasions and safely returned to Mexico under current programs that are critical at this time to prevent the spread of COVID-19. She intentionally crossed the river with the intent of giving birth inside the United States so she could use the child’s U.S. citizenship to remain in the United States, at least temporarily. These facts are seldom included in the mainstream media stories.
The below timeline is to correct the record and respond to these false and misleading reports:
1. On October 7, 2020, at approximately 9:40 pm, Border Patrol in Eagle Pass, Texas, received information from Mexican authorities about a migrant in need of emergency medical attention. Agents quickly responded and encountered an adult female, who had just given birth. She had no other family with her. The mother and newborn baby were immediately transported to the local hospital, Fort Duncan Regional Medical Center (FDRMC), for medical assessment.
2. On October 8, 2020, at approximately 12:50 am, the mother and her newborn were placed in a labor and delivery room together pending COVID-19 test results. At approximately 2:00 am, their COVID-19 test results returned as negative and they were re-located together to a postpartum room.
3. At approximately 2:08 am, the Border Patrol agent at the hospital was advised the child would not be released due medical complications. The agent witnessed the hospital doctor on duty tell the mother she could not remain at the hospital once the baby went into the nursery because only persons in need of medical care were allowed to remain due to COVID-19 concerns. The mother was released from FDRMC and returned to Border Patrol. Border Patrol transported the mother back to the Eagle Pass South Station for processing.
4. At approximately 5:30 pm, FDRMC requested the mother return to the hospital to sign paperwork required for transferring her child via air to University Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, for advanced neonatal care. Border Patrol personnel transported the mother back to FDRMC as requested.
A. This part of Texas is serviced by two different air medic services to transport those in need and they each have differing COVID-19 protocols. Because University Hospital had placed an additional team member on this particular flight, weight and balance issues prevented the mother from boarding the flight regardless of COVID-19 protocols.
B. Likewise, Border Patrol did not call University Medical staff on October 8th to ask specifically if the mother would be allowed to stay inside the neonatal unit with the baby. Agents assumed that the same strict COVID-19 protocols applied at FDRMC would similarly apply to the neonatal intensive care unit where the baby was being flown. Border Patrol acknowledges this error, which was based on reasonable assumption of the circumstances of this event and our experiences with the many hospitals we work with.
5. After signing the documents, the mother was returned to the Eagle Pass station to complete processing. While at the processing center, the mother spoke with the Acting Watch Commander about her next steps. The Watch Commander explained to her that she had to be processed for her illegal entry as she had been multiple times in the past, and that she would be reunited with her baby as soon as her baby was released from University Hospital. He also explained the hospital band she was wearing would be used to prove she is the mother in order to help facilitate their reunion when medically cleared. Border Patrol agents worked to process her for release as quickly as possible so that she could be transported to San Antonio where non-government organizations (NGOs) could support her and her baby.
6. On October 9, 2020, Eagle Pass agents stayed in constant contact with University Hospital staff and relayed all updates on the infant to the mother.
7. On October 9, 2020, at 6:34 pm, a Supervisory Border Patrol Agent called University Hospital and spoke with the charge nurse. He asked whether the mother would be allowed to visit or stay with her child in the hospital. The nurse advised University Hospital was not set up for lodging and could not accommodate her staying with the child; however, she could visit her child following administration of a new COVID test. Border Patrol was also advised that the hospital social worker would not return to work until Monday, October 12, 2020 to assist.
8. Unsatisfied with this, an Assistant Chief Patrol Agent monitoring this case contacted a local NGO, Mission: Border Hope, for assistance. A representative from the NGO advised that none of their current contacts in San Antonio could accommodate that late in the day but they would help by delivering the mother to San Antonio the following morning.
9. On October 9, 2020, at 11:25 pm, a Border Patrol Watch Commander again called University Hospital, explained the situation, and asked whether the mother could spend the night with her baby. The Charge Nurse advised there was no room available for the mother, and parents are not allowed to stay at the hospital. She further stated that visitations would require an additional COVID-19 test administered by them the following morning.
10. On October 10, 2020, at 12:06 am, the mother was released on her own recognizance and delivered into the care of NGO, Mission: Border Hope in Eagle Pass, Texas. The NGO representative advised Border Patrol that they would transport the mother to San Antonio first thing in the morning. She would then need to meet University Hospital’s medical requirements to be in the same room with her baby. Later that morning, at 10:40 am, Border Patrol agents received confirmation from the NGO that the mother was reunited with her baby.
A total of 34 hours elapsed between the time the baby was flown to San Antonio and the mother was released to the NGO. Forty-five total hours of separation occurred due to the newborn’s medical complications and COVID-19 protocols.
The mother had attempted to illegally enter the United States on multiple occasions prior to this encounter. On one of those occasions, she crossed the Rio Grande River near Eagle Pass, Texas, with her six-year-old daughter and left her alone along the river inside the U.S. The mother then returned to Mexico by swimming back across. Eagle Pass agents did indeed find the little girl, an unaccompanied minor at that time, and worked to place her with relatives in California. Despite multiple previous attempts to cross illegally, Border Patrol agents worked tirelessly to ensure the health and safety of both mother and child while enforcing Congressionally-enacted immigration laws.
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