A Woman In ICE Custody Delivered A Stillborn Baby After Going Into Premature Labor

by Caitlin Cruz
Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

On Monday, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released a statement saying a woman delivered a stillborn baby while in ICE custody after going into premature labor. The 24-year-old Honduran woman has not yet been identified and the child's death is currently not classified as an "in-custody death" by the agency, according to a press release.

Bustle has reached out to ICE for clarification. The Honduran woman was taken into custody by Border Patrol just before midnight on Feb. 18 in southern Texas, and she told Border Patrol that she was six months pregnant, according to a release from ICE. After "two medical screenings," the release said this woman was "cleared for release" on Feb. 21 before she was transferred into ICE custody on Feb. 22 "to be processed for release."

The agency's press release said that then the woman began "complaining of abdominal discomfort." The ICE Health Service Corps clinical director ordered the woman to be sent to the hospital, according to the release. The Daily Beast was reported that the woman and the baby were taken to the Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen, Texas, which is 40 minutes away from the ICE facility.

Then, the woman went into premature labor at the Port Isabel Detention Center. From ICE's account of the incident:

At that time, she conveyed that the baby was coming. She went into premature labor, at 27 weeks pregnant, and delivered an unresponsive male infant. IHSC initiated CPR and EMS transported them both to the Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen, Texas, where the infant was later pronounced dead.

The woman is still in ICE custody, according to the agency. The statement also noted that the woman delivering a stillborn baby isn't an "in-custody death," though it did not elaborate.

"Although for investigative and reporting purposes, a stillbirth is not considered an in-custody death, ICE and CBP officials are proactively disclosing the details of this tragic event to be transparent with Congress, the media and the public," according to the press release.

The Associated Press reported that since December, there have been at least three in-custody deaths, including a 45-year-old Mexican man and two children, ages 7 and 8.

The policies surrounding the detainment of pregnant persons have changed. In 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order, which "ended the presumption of release for all pregnant detainees."

Now the release of pregnant people in custody is done after "a case-by-case assessment," according to NBC News. The policy applies to all pregnant persons, even if they are seeking asylum protections, according to the agency's website.

ICE said that "generally, absent extraordinary circumstances," the agency won't detain a pregnant person in their third trimester. The agency also said provides "onsite prenatal care and education" along with "remote access specialists" while pregnant persons are in custody.

The birth of a stillborn child while the mother is in ICE custody is a part of the larger story of the treatment of detained people by ICE at the southern border, including a "zero tolerance" policy that lead to family separations during a six-week period starting in April 2018.