- A premature baby was found on Tuesday with her teenage mother in a Border Patrol facility in Texas.
- The mother, who is from Guatemala, had an emergency Cesarean section in Mexico in early May before crossing the border with the baby on June 4.
- Federal law says there is a legal 72-hour time limit on children being held in government custody.
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Swaddled in a sweatshirt and dressed in a dirty onesie, a prematurely born baby was discovered Tuesday in the arms of her 17-year-old mother at a crowded Border Patrol facility in Texas.
The baby and her teenage mother were being held in a Border Patrol processing facility in McAllen, Texas. Hope Frye, an attorney and volunteer with an immigrant advocacy group, first met the girl and her baby a week after they were detained.
According to federal law, there is a legal 72-hour time limit on minors being held in government custody.
“You look at this baby and there is no question that this baby should be in a tube with a heart monitor,” Frye told the Associated Press.
Frye said the mother, who is from Guatemala, had an emergency Cesarean section in Mexico in early May before crossing the border with the baby on June 4. According to the AP, the teenage girl told advocates she needed people to carry her when crossing the border via the Rio Grande River.
When she was eventually apprehended by Border Control, she needed additional assistance getting into the car, she said, according to advocates. The girl also said border authorities forced her to throw away a backpack containing the baby’s clothing, so she had to bundle her baby in a borrowed sweatshirt from another migrant mother.
Following public outcry on social media, specifically by celebrity activist Alyssa Milano, the pair were set to be transferred to an Office of Refugee Resettlement shelter on Thursday, nine days after the mother was taken in Border Control custody, according to the AP.
????Urgent???? A 1 month old baby in Ursula Border Patrol cage needs medical attention NOW. Premature Baby K is listless, wrapped in a dirty blanket & underweight.
She is in desperate need of immediate medical attention.
Call your representatives & demand treatment to #SaveBabyK.
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) June 13, 2019
US Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, followed up on Milano’s post, retweeting it and saying that he made an emergency call to the Department of Homeland Security to release the family.
After my emergency call to DHS, they say this family will be released immediately. Thanks for all who raised the alarm on this critical situation. No child should be subjected to this kind of treatment. This cruelty must be stopped or lives will continue to be lost. https://t.co/wPvTed7kn7
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) June 13, 2019
At one point, Frye described the baby as “minuscule” and that her head “was the size of my fist or smaller than my fist,” she told the AP. When the baby got sick at one point in the facility, Frye said she seemed “listless and unresponsive.”
Frye told HuffPost that she and her team worked on getting the teenage mother and her child released from the Border Control custody. She said they also called 911 and the local Child Protective Services office, but both said they did not have jurisdiction over the facility.
“No child should ever go into Border Patrol custody – they are not equipped to handle it,” Frye said in a BuzzFeed article. “Congress needs to do something.”
INSIDER contacted the US Customs and Border Protection but did not receive a statement ahead of publishing.