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Revealed: US Citizen Newborns Sent to Mexico Under Trump-Era Border Ban

The Fuller Project partnered with The Guardian to report on migrant women who were sent back to Mexico within days of giving birth and without an opportunity to collect birth certificates for their U.S. citizen newborns. They were “expelled” under a policy Trump officials put in place during the pandemic. Around 400,000 people were subject to the policy since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which also prevented them from appearing in front of a judge or from being screened for asylum claims. These expulsions were largely carried out away from the public eye and compounded the suffering caused by an existing web of exclusionary border policies

Our investigation found that at least 11 new mothers and their U.S. citizen newborns were subject to the policy our reporter Tanvi Misra found, based on conversations with lawyers, two of the moms, and a review of hospital records. Among them was ‘Helene’, a 23-year-old woman from Haiti who gave birth in Chula Vista, California, only to be dropped off on the side of the road along the San Diego-Tijuana border three days later — just 25 minutes after she was discharged from the hospital, she told Misra through a translator. Misra later described the conversation:

“Whenever I’m able to speak to folks who’ve made this kind of journey, there’s a lot of moments of the conversations that stick with me. I am not always able to put them all in the story. In this case, it was how the woman described her journey to the U.S. She said it was beautiful & terrible (translated). Beautiful because she met a lot of people — other migrants — who encouraged her and gave her strength. Terrible because of all the awful things that can happen — (she listed rape, kidnapping ) — the violence of it.”This story was published on February 4 during vital weeks for immigration policymaking. On February 24, President Biden repealed various Trump-era border policies. The Biden administration also started exempting unaccompanied minor children and certain vulnerable families from the Trump policy under which the mothers in this story were “expelled.”

The story had an almost immediate impact. In April 2021, a month after it was published, all the women in the story were granted humanitarian parole, which allowed them to enter into the United States and start the process of requesting asylum. That July, the story was cited in a lawsuit filed by immigrant groups, which demanded government records related to the treatment of pregnant women and their children in CBP’s custody. The same month, the Homeland Security Office of Inspector General released a report reviewing one of the births in our story and concluded that the CBP did not properly track births in custody or always promptly release U.S. citizen newborns. And finally, in August, CBP issued a memo allowing for the exemption of pregnant women and women who had just given birth from “Title 42.”

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