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More women are having miscarriages while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

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Over the past two years, an estimated 30 women have had miscarriages while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to information released by the federal government and published by the Arizona Republic last week. Advocates, elected officials, and doctors have expressed deep concern about the data, which was released just days after a 24-year-old Honduran woman delivered a stillborn baby in ICE custody.

The 24-year-old woman, whose name has been withheld by ICE, was being processed for release at the Port Isabel Service Processing Center near Los Fresnos, Texas, when she started going into premature labor, according to the Daily Beast. She was 27 weeks pregnant and had been in detention for four days when she delivered an unresponsive boy before an ambulance could arrive. ICE’s Health Service Corps (IHSC) attempted to resuscitate the baby but was unsuccessful, and he was declared dead after arriving at the Valley Baptist Medical Center later that day.

ICE has come under scrutiny in recent years for generally providing substandard medical care to detainees; according to NBC News, 22 people died in ICE custody between 2017 and 2018, including several young children. But pregnancy presents a unique medical problem for detainees, according to Dr. Alan Shapiro, a pediatrician and co-founder of Terra Firma, a nonprofit organization that provides medical care to undocumented children. “Detention in and of itself can be quite traumatizing and stressful, and anything that triggers stress hormones can lead to negative outcomes in pregnancy for herself and for the fetus,” Shapiro told the Daily Beast

The detention of pregnant women has vastly increased since Donald Trump came into office. In 2016, Barack Obama’s administration issued a memo stating that “absent extraordinary circumstances or the requirement of mandatory detention, pregnant women will generally not be detained by ICE.” President Trump ended that policy in December 2017 as part of his broader crackdown on undocumented migrants. A total of 1,655 pregnant women were booked into ICE custody between October 2017 and August 31, 2018, and there were 60 pregnant detainees being held by immigration detention as of August 31, 2018, according to data provided by ICE to the Arizona Republic and other outlets.

In April 2018, a group of civil rights organizations and medical associations sent a letter to ICE’s then-Deputy Director calling for Trump to reinstate the previous policy. They cited a complaint filed with the Department of Homeland Security in 2017 that detailed “numerous cases of inadequate care and mistreatment, including reports of inaccurate pregnancy tests and delayed access to prenatal care, threatening both the pregnant individual’s health the health of their fetus.” The letter also cited the many stressors endured by pregnant people in ICE custody, including being separated from their families, the uncertainty that surrounds their immigration status, and the traumas they may have suffered in their countries of origin or their journeys to the United States.

Chair of the Hispanic Caucus Representative Joaquin Castro (D-TX) issued a statement shortly after the Honduran woman’s miscarriage came to public light. “These tragedies make one thing very clear: ICE and [U.S. Customs and Border Patrol] 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,” he said. “We must examine the circumstances of the unfortunate and disturbing loss of this mother’s child.”

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