According to a report in the Texas Observer, a contractor for ICE crashed a van of migrant mothers who'd been separated from their children — and then denied that the incident ever occurred. After being presented with evidence that the crash occurred, ICE reportedly backtracked and acknowledged that there had been a "fender bender" involving one of its vans.
The accident took place in San Marcos, Texas on July 18, according to the Observer, when a van contracted by ICE to transport eight migrant mothers was leaving a gas station. The driver of the van slammed into a pickup truck that was entering the station, the Observer reports, throwing the women against the seats in front of them. Four of the women told the Observer that they had been instructed not to wear seat belts prior to the crash.
“The crash was really strong, like maybe we were going to flip,” a Honduran mother who was in the van told the Observer. Another passenger said that "we were all trembling with shock from the accident" and that her "whole body hurt.”
The Observer says that immigration activists informed them of the accident the day after it took place. But when asked for comment, ICE told the newspaper that the crash never happened.
"Your sources misinformed you,” ICE spokesperson Leticia Zamarripa reportedly told the Observer on July 20. “There was no crash."
But when the Observer obtained the official accident report three weeks later and presented it to the agency, ICE reportedly reversed course and acknowledged that there had indeed been an accident involving one of its vans. The agency told the Observer that it was a "fender bender not vehicle crash," although a fender bender is of course a type of vehicle crash.
"While exiting the parking lot the van was involved in a fender bender with a pick-up truck that was turning into the parking lot, which resulted in minor damage to both vehicles," ICE said in a statement to the Hill. "Both vehicles remained operable. EMS evaluated the detainees on site and were cleared to travel."
The police report obtained by the Observer said that the van carrying the mothers suffered "disabling damage" in the crash and had to be towed, suggesting that, contrary to ICE's statement, the vehicle was not operable. When asked about this apparent contradiction, ICE spokesperson Adelina Prudena sent the same statement to Bustle, adding that there is "no discrepancy here" and "NO clarification required."
Several of the mothers involved in the accident told the Observer that they experienced headaches, dizziness, and nausea immediately thereafter. One said that her leg was injured as well, and began swelling immediately after the crash. The mothers told the Observer that although an ambulance arrived soon after the crash, none of them went to the hospital for fear of delaying their reunifications with their children.
According to the Observer, four of the women have since been released, and at least one has been reunited with her son. Two of them, however, said that they are still experiencing pain or debilitation as a result of their injuries, with one of them claiming that she's had "persistent pain and discomfort breathing" since the crash.