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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Pregnant Asylum-Seekers In Tijuana Being Denied Access To Court Hearings

 February 21, 2020 at 8:35 AM PST

Speaker 1: 00:00 A KPBS investigation has revealed a new twist and the situation playing out at the border, some pregnant asylum seekers sent back to Mexico under the romaine in Mexico program are being barred from entering the United States for their court dates. So why is this happening? KPBS reporter max riddle in Adler has been looking for answers and he joins us now. Max, welcome. So now start off by telling us the person that you featured in your story is a woman named Corina, right? What's her story? Speaker 2: 00:28 Corina is an asylum seeker that, uh, came to Tijuana with her husband from El Salvador. They had been staying in Tijuana for quite some time because they were waiting on the unofficial list that's kept by Mexican immigration authorities along with asylum seekers themselves to limit the amount of people that enter the United States, uh, under the system we call metering. So she'd already been spending a considerable amount of time in Tijuana before she entered the United States after entering the United States. Um, you know, in August of this year, she was sent back to the, to Mexico as part of the remain in Mexico program. So at that point she was only three months pregnant. She didn't know at the time actually, um, that she was truly pregnant until she got a pregnancy test at the port of entry itself. So she was brought back to Tijuana where she spent the next few months waiting for her court date in the U S under this policy. She was denied access to the bus that would take her to her court date based on her pregnancy. By the time that she showed up for her, her court date, uh, her most recent court date, she was already seven months pregnant, visibly pregnant. And the officers asked her whether she was pregnant and told her because she was pregnant she could not go, uh, to the U S and the give her a new court date. That would be after she was due to give birth. Speaker 1: 01:48 So is there any official difference in the policy towards pregnant asylum seekers versus everybody else? Speaker 2: 01:54 No, there has been zero written directive as a instructing agents to monitor people who are either visibly pregnant or you know, give people pregnancy tests. There's no difference. And it's really unclear what is being decided when they don't have people come to their court dates because there are really adverse impacts. If you don't appear to your court date, your court case could be closed and your asylum case could be derailed. Speaker 1: 02:20 So you have not been able to establish if there has been a change in policy? Speaker 2: 02:25 No, I reached out to customs and border protection. They told me that all questions should go to the department of Homeland security. They themselves did not respond to requests for comment. CVP did tell me that, um, you know, pregnant women can be enrolled in the program. Uh, that is something that advocates say per the directive of the program, per the guidelines that pregnant, pregnant women should not be included because they are sensitive populations. Um, and Tijuana itself is a very difficult place if you are a migrant to give birth to a child. Speaker 1: 02:57 And you found that Corina not the only person Speaker 2: 03:00 who was in this position, right? Yeah. So I spoke with at least a four separate people who face this, who showed up at the port of entry and were not, uh, allowed into, uh, the, the United States were given later dates and this was a really adverse for several of these people, including, um, one of these women who still in Tijuana. Uh, as of last week I spoke with her and her name was Sandra and here's what she had to say. It's in Spanish and then I'll translate Speaker 3: 03:29 [inaudible] normal [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible]. Speaker 2: 03:47 So she's explaining there the process where she was turned away at the port of entry. When she came back for another date, they told her that her case had been closed and that she'd lost her case. So that's something that she's going to have to navigate while she was already pregnant. Um, this is going to be something that has driven other individuals to cross the border, um, outside of the, you know, the official channel of using the bus of, of showing up at the port of entry on their court dates. Um, and there's been a sharp uptick in the amount of women who have given birth in CBP custody. As a result of that, your story mentions that they're all bad conditions that could be dangerous for a pregnant woman in hospitals in T Y. What evidence do you have of that? Um, so that's just from speaking with advocates there and women. Speaker 2: 04:32 Um, one of the advocates told me last week that a woman, uh, gave birth in a bathroom. Um, migrants don't have equal access to healthcare as Mexican citizens do, especially for from central America. It's very difficult to navigate health care in Mexico. Um, the large public hospital in Tijuana is often overrun. A lot of people are being treated in the waiting room, are spending considerable amounts of time in the waiting room. So, um, you know, somebody to navigate being pregnant Eve, you have even a minor complication and need assistance. I've heard of, uh, people, there was a Haitian immigrant, a Haitian migrant, uh, last month who had to crowdsource, um, to get care for herself, to pay for a private healthcare provider to be able to safely deliver her child. And coming back to Corina again, it turns out in your story, she was able to get into the United States eventually, right? Speaker 2: 05:27 Yeah. She was able to get in with the help of the organization. I'll throw a lotto, which does a lot of work with asylum seekers at the port of entry. She spoke, uh, they, she spoke with one of their lawyers. They took her to the port of entry. They explained the situation because this entire process is so ad hoc by customs and border protection and by the authorities there, um, it's, it's, it's depends on the day and who you speak with, whether you get admitted into the U S so she was admitted into the U S or she'll continue her asylum claim in the United States and she is due to give birth this week. Well, thanks for that story, max. Thank you. I've been speaking with KPBS reporter max Redland Nadler.

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In recent months, pregnant asylum-seekers sent back to Tijuana under the "Remain-In-Mexico" program have been barred from entering the United States for their court dates.
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