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ACLU argues pregnant women wrongly returned to Mexico

WASHINGTON (AP) — Civil rights groups are demanding an investigation by Homeland Security's watchdog into the practice of sending pregnant women back over the U.S.-Mexico border to wait out their asylum claims.

Pregnant women have been forced to sleep on the floor and were provided inadequate food and water in U.S. custody, only to then be sent to Mexico, where their medical needs are largely ignored unless they are in labor, according to the complaint filed Friday by the American Civil Liberties Union and Texas Civil Rights projects.

Some of the women returned over the border were eight months pregnant and are staying in crowded shelters in dangerous parts of Mexico, and women reported they were afraid to leave encampments, but there is often no fresh water in migrant encampments.

The complaint filed with the Homeland Security's inspector general details more than a dozen women who have been returned to Mexico. More than 45,000 migrants have been returned to Mexico since January. Lawsuits have been filed challenging the practice, and there have been reports of migrants threatened, kidnapped and robbed by cartels in addition to fetid conditions at shelters.

Homeland Security didn't immediately comment, nor did the inspector general's office. In one case, a 25-year-old Honduran woman who was six months pregnant was returned to Ciudad Juárez in August, along with her husband and 4-year-old daughter.

Her first court hearing is Dec. 10 — she's due on Dec. 22. They are now living in a migrant shelter, and she's afraid to go outside because shootings have occurred, and others have been followed. "She has been warned to not leave her child alone or she risks abduction," according to the complaint. "She has no access to medical care in Mexico."

The complaint argues that vulnerable populations, like pregnant women, should be excluded. It argues women need special medical care. The U.S. has also made a massive change in its asylum system , denying claims to anyone who crossed through another country first after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the changes could go into effect while a legal battle plays out.

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