Eleven months ago, the Trump administration ended an Obama-era policy that barred U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents from detaining pregnant women in most cases. This week, that move came under new scrutiny when ICE announced that a six-months-pregnant Honduran woman gave birth to a stillborn baby while in the agency’s custody.
The 24-year-old woman was arrested by U.S. Border Patrol agents near Higaldo, Texas, last week, and taken to a hospital for examination. From there, she was transferred to a detention facility near Brownsville and scheduled for release on Friday. While in detention, however, she went into labor and gave birth to a nonresponsive baby boy.
The detainee was one of 60 pregnant women currently being held by ICE. Between October 1, 2016 and August 31, 2018, some 28 pregnant women may have miscarried “just prior to or while in ICE custody,” according to an agency spokesperson.
While ICE has insisted that it is impossible to know what caused a miscarriage without a medical history, immigration advocates have pointed out the obvious strain that arrest and detainment can cause. “We know those are not the best conditions for pregnant women at all,” said Erika Andiola, chief of advocacy for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services. “This is not surprising, really.”
The case also resurfaced the tragic deaths of two children in ICE custody late last year — flash points in a polarizing debate over the agency’s treatment of vulnerable detainees.
ICE said it is investigating the incident, but emphasized that a stillbirth is not considered an in-custody death. Meanwhile, the mother remains in custody while awaiting medical clearance for release.
Read the full story at The New York Times.