ICE Admits to Detaining Pregnant Women in El Paso Processing Center

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The National Immigrant Youth Alliance, the organization whose membership has literally put their bodies on the line to highlight our nation's unjust immigration system, recently revealed new and even more upsetting conditions immigrants are current living under in US detention. Organizers who intentionally allowed themselves to be detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to gain access to the El Paso Processing Center identified up to 13 pregnant women detained in the center between August and November of 2013. In conjunction with the NIYA, Fusion has also reported as a part of their on-going investigation that one of the women suffered from a miscarriage while detained.

While ICE policy states that detaining pregnant or nursing women is low on their priority list, having 13 women in detention within a four month period says otherwise. Agents require special permission from field office directors to detain pregnant women. Their directive states that resources should be spent on top priority cases such as those who have previously broken immigration laws, those who are threats to public safety, or those who have been convicted of crimes.

Read more about this human rights violation below the jump.Santiago Garcia-Leco, an undocumented activist with the NIYA, infiltrated the processing center last month. He helped uncover the stories of the pregnant women, as well as nearly 100 instances of ICE officials refusing to release parole eligible individuals. In response, the NIYA has launched a petition asking that Washington DC ICE officials initiate a full review of the entire facility.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) says pregnant women shouldn't be detained in their facilities “absent extraordinary circumstances.” ICE spokespeople, who originally denied any miscarriage from occurring, have come out more recently to say the woman's “condition occurred independently of circumstances of her confinement.” Advocates have emphasized that inadequate medical care in dentition poses as a threat to the well being of women and unborn children.

The woman's miscarriage occurred because of a blighted ovum, which based on medical advice Fusion received from obstetrics and gynecology doctor Jane Porcelan M.D., says “never occurs in a regular pregnancy.” Momsrising, an organization dedicated to bringing the voices of women and mothers to the forefront in political dialogue, has also come out to support the women that have been detained as well.

It's not just El Paso, when I was in an Arizona center briefly, there was another pregnant woman there,” said Carmen Guadalupe Rivas-Torres, who was detained for three months, two of which ICE knew she was pregnant. “I don't think they should be keeping women during pregnancy, I can tell you it is very difficult to be in there.” Which brings up the fact that the El Paso detention center is only one out of over 250 immigration detention centers across the country— putting in question how common the detention of pregnant women currently is in our immigration system.

This is a firm example showing whose bodies are disregarded in the current system. Because of their race and class, undocumented people being processed are not even receiving a fair application of the law, which itself is already in dire need of reform. If not for the activism of organizations like the NIYA who are willing to take the risk, the voices of these people would continue to be silenced and dismissed. We can only work and hope for healing for those families affected, and amplify these voices to change the current status quo that has brought us to the poor conditions we see today.

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