Border Patrol employee denied transfer to see newborn fighting for life over technicality

ByBrooke Taylor KTRK logo
Thursday, March 23, 2023
Dad stationed in AZ denied transfer to see newborn in Houston NICU
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A dad working for the U.S. Border Patrol in Arizona was denied a transfer to see his 4-month-old daughter in an intensive care nursery in Houston.

HOUSTON, Texas -- A family is fighting to stay together for their 4-month-old little girl in the intensive care nursery, but the father's job is denying him a transfer to be close to his daughter.

Jessica Clark dreams of the day she can bring home her daughter Ruby, who has been at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital since November. Her room with her crib and toys awaits.

Clark was induced two months early to save both their lives, and Ruby was born with severe health complications.

"Honestly, a lot of times, I don't feel like I am a mom, you know?" Clark said while tearing up.

Ruby was born with a brain bleed that self-resolved and now has fluid in her brain, which they are monitoring, along with a blood clot near her heart and other devastating complications.

To add to what the family is already forced to go through, Ruby's father can't be with her. Matthew Schoelles works for the U.S. Border Patrol and is stationed in Arizona. He has been denied what they refer to as a compassionate transfer to be in Houston with his daughter.

"He just wants to be a dad. We want to be parents together," Clark said.

According to the Border Patrol policy, "Employees may request compassionate transfers when dire emergencies exist affecting the physical or mental health of the employee or a member of the employee's immediate family residing in his/her household."

"It's the name of their policy: Compassion," Clark said. "It is meant to help people experiencing some of the worst times in their life. That's what this is. This is the hardest thing either of us had to endure. I can't imagine someone can look at this situation and say he doesn't need to be there."

Clark and Schoelles are not legally married, but they are together. They don't live in the same household, and the child is at the hospital in Texas with her mom while Schoelles is stationed in Arizona. That technicality of not living in the same household is what got him denied.

"Newborn is not an immediate family member residing in the employee's household at his permanent duty station," a letter from Border Patrol Headquarters states, denying his transfer.

Clark wonders how many others who work in Border Patrol have been denied just because they may not live in the same household as their suffering family members.

"Let's say they are divorced, and mom has custody, and dad doesn't. That doesn't mean dad is any less important," Clark said.

Ruby is expected to have a long journey ahead with upcoming surgeries and the fear of the unknown. Clark just wants the father of her child to be there for their daughter and believes Border Patrol needs to re-write their policy.

"Be human. This is not OK. This is not normal," Clark said. "Nobody planned for this. Nobody asked for this."

Clark said she has looked into moving to Arizona with their baby, but she said Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital is one of the top-rated hospitals in the country. She doesn't want to jeopardize the care they are getting or risk flying her to Arizona.

The mother, feeling helpless and desperate for any sort of help, has been emailing elected leaders and officials to try and help. She has heard back from a few people who did reach out to Border Patrol, but they referred to the policy, unable to help. Clark said she is not giving up.

ABC13 awaits an answer after contacting U.S. Border Patrol to find out why the policy was written this way and if they care to change it for their employees.