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Guatemalan teen mother with preemie draws health scrutiny of Texas border patrol facility

2019-06-17

In this file photo a U.S. Border Patrol Agent walks between vehicles outside the Central Processing Center in McAllen, Texas. Advocates were shocked to find an underage mom and her tiny, premature newborn daughter huddled in a Border Patrol facility the second week of June 2019, in what they say was another example of the poor treatment immigrant families receive after crossing the border. The mother is a Guatemalan teen who crossed the border without a parent and was held at a facility in McAllen, Texas, with other families with children. (David J. Phillip/AP)

A detention center at the U.S. border with Mexico is being investigated after a 17-year-old Guatemalan mother was found, doubled over in pain in a wheelchair, sheltering her premature baby inside her jacket.

An immigration advocate said the baby “should be in a tube with a heart monitor,” the Associated Press reported.

She had had an emergency c-section in Mexico in early May and continued on to the border, said Hope Frye, the advocate, to AP.

The two were being transferred to a private facility for unaccompanied underage immigrants this week, AP said, but only after a public outcry via social media.

While the majority of the immigrants surging over the border from Central America are fleeing poverty and violence, the administration of President Donald Trump claim that the adults in their lives are putting their children in danger by entrusting them to smugglers, AP said.

Authorities had forced the 17-year-old mother to discard a backpack she was carrying with baby clothes in it, but given her no substitute, AP said. This left the baby in a soiled onesie, swathed in a sweatshirt donated by another migrant mom, AP said.

Since October more than 56,000 unaccompanied minors have been apprehended at the border, AP said, with 11,000 in May alone. While the numbers of people crossing or attempting to cross into the U.S. is lower than a decade ago, the groups themselves are increasingly made up of women and children rather than male heads of household seeking work, which was the case in previous record-holding years.

Facilities have not kept pace with the different needs and vulnerabilities presented by the more vulnerable immigrants. At least a half dozen children have died while in U.S. custody since December, and hundreds if not thousands of children have been separated from their parents, with no concrete plan on how to reunite them.