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Honduran woman in immigration custody gives birth to premature, stillborn baby

ICE says on its website that it has “ended the presumption of release for all pregnant detainees” following a January 2017 order. It now assesses case by case if there are "special factors."
Image: Port Isabel Detention Center
Vehicles leave the Port Isabel Detention Center, which holds detainees of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in Los Fresnos, Texas on June 26, 2018.David J. Phillip / AP file

A Honduran woman delivered a stillborn boy at an immigration detention center in Texas after going into premature labor last week, authorities said Monday.

The woman, 24, was about six months pregnant when she was apprehended by Border Patrol early Feb. 18 near Hidalgo, Texas, according to a joint statement by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection. Both agencies are a part of the Department of Homeland Security.

The woman's name and identifying details were withheld to protect her privacy, the agencies said.

On Tuesday, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus called for an investigation into the incident.

"These tragedies make one thing very clear: ICE and CBP should not be detaining expectant mothers in poor conditions, and the practice of detaining these women is inhumane and inconsistent with our values as Americans," Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said in a statement. "We must examine the circumstances of the unfortunate and disturbing loss of this mother's child."

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., called for "nothing less than a full accounting of the circumstances surrounding this tragic event, including the government’s actions."

While the woman was in Border Patrol custody, she was taken to a hospital and cleared for release on Thursday after receiving two medical screenings, according to the statement. She was then transferred to ICE custody at the Port Isabel Detention Center on Friday afternoon to be processed for release, the statement said.

That night, the woman “began complaining of abdominal discomfort” and was examined by ICE's Health Service Corps, according to the statement. A clinical director was called and ordered that the woman be sent to a hospital and Emergency Medical Services were called, according to the statement.

“At that time, she conveyed that the baby was coming,” the statement said. “She went into premature labor, at 27 weeks pregnant, and delivered an unresponsive male infant.”

They were taken to a local hospital where the baby was pronounced dead, the statement said. The woman remains in ICE custody pending medical clearance, according to the statement.

In a page on its website detailing its policy of pregnant migrant detainees, ICE said that it has “ended the presumption of release for all pregnant detainees” following a January 2017 executive order by President Donald Trump. It now completes a case-by-case assessment of custody, taking “special factors” into consideration, ICE said.

The agency said it generally does not detain pregnant migrants who are in their third trimester of pregnancy.

ICE said it provides on-site prenatal care, education and “remote access to specialists for pregnant women who remain in custody.”

Previous policy said that pregnant women were “generally not detained unless their detention was mandatory under the law” or under “extraordinary circumstances,” according to ICE.

ICE and CBP said stillbirths are not considered in-custody deaths, but there have been several in-custody deaths in recent months.

Last week, a 45-year-old Mexican man died while in Border Patrol custody. His death followed the high-profile deaths of two children, 8-year-old Felipe Alonzo Gomez and 7-year-old Jakelin Caal, in U.S. custody in December.