human rights

Nearly 30 Women Have Miscarried While Detained by ICE Since 2017

Detention facility.
An ICE detention facility. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Just days after reports circulated that a 24-year-old Honduran woman delivered a stillborn baby after going into premature labor while she was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency admitted that she was not the only woman to go through such an experience in government custody. According to documents released by the agency, as many as 28 women have had miscarriages while in ICE detention between the fiscal years of 2017 and 2018, as reported by the Arizona Republic.

This is a marked increase: The number of immigrant women who have miscarried in ICE detention has nearly doubled under Trump, according to a report from the Daily Beast. The number of pregnant women in custody has also increased, the result of a widely criticized Trump-era policy that ended the practice of exempting them from being held in detention centers. Between October 1, 2017 and August 31, 2018, according to ICE’s records, 1,655 pregnant women were detained by the agency. (Between 2012 and 2014, by comparison, ICE reported that there were 559 pregnant women detained in their facilities.)

Even before the Trump administration, reports of pregnant women enduring inhumane conditions in detention date back years. Pregnant women detained by ICE have reported that they were often ignored when suffering from severe pain, illness, or emotional distress related to their pregnancy. Others recounted their experiences, in a complaint filed in 2017 by the ACLU, of being held in freezing cold rooms that were overcrowded and often filled with other sick people for long periods of time.

In that complaint, women in the early weeks and months of their pregnancy recalled fearing that the severe stress from being detained would hurt the baby. “The doctor told me that I was pregnant and that my pregnancy was high risk. He told me that I have an infection, and gave me pills,” an El Salvadorian woman named Emma said. “We slept in the cold on very thin mattresses … All of these experiences have been very traumatizing for me.”

In a statement to the Daily Beast, ICE said they were “not aware of any concerns regarding medical care of pregnant detainees” at the Port Isabel detention facility where the young Honduran woman went into premature labor. The agency has previously insisted, following other reports of miscarriages at their facilities, that all detained pregnant women are given appropriate prenatal care.

“This is again another example of how the Trump administration’s aggressive anti-immigration enforcement policies are subjecting vulnerable immigrants to abuse and just tragic outcomes that are completely unnecessary,” Victoria Lopez, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Republic.

Following the most recently reported miscarriage, the Hispanic Congressional Caucus is demanding that ICE further investigate the circumstances of the premature birth. Texas representative Joaquin Castro, who is the chairman of the caucus, said in a statement that the Trump administration’s policy to detain pregnant women instead of releasing them has led to an increased likelihood of abuse.

“As a result of this cruel policy change, we have heard of several alarming stories of pregnant women receiving inadequate medical care and even miscarrying while in DHS custody,” Castro’s statement said.

Nearly 30 Women Miscarried While Detained by ICE Since 2017