In recently issued complaints to the Department of Homeland Security, various immigration organizations are accusing ICE of violating its own guidelines regarding the treatment of pregnant asylum seekers. Jennye Pagoada López is one of the fifteen women whose stories of being detained while pregnant is being included in the complaint filed to DHS. The 32-year-old fled El Salvador after gang members killed her brother and threatened her and her family. Pagoada’s experience is attached to the complaint alongside other women with similar experiences. Their stories are urging a probe into the inadequate care being given to pregnant women in immigration custody.
“I told them, ‘I’m bleeding.’ And they kept telling me to keep waiting.”
CREDIT: AP Photo/Juan Carlos Llorca, File
In an article published by HuffPost, Pagoada describes her experience of being two months pregnant and seeking asylum at the San Ysidro border crossing near San Diego. Pagoada provided proof to a U.S. border agent that she was pregnant. Still, she slept on the center’s hard floor that night. The next morning the expectant mother woke up with pain in her abdomen. “I started bleeding, but a lot,” Pagoada explains in the interview. “It was like that the whole morning, in pain and bleeding.” Instead of being sent to a doctor, Pagoada was soon transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Otay Mesa Detention Center — a family detention center for children and pregnant women. “They took my information, my fingerprints, photographs,” she recalls. “I told them, ‘I’m bleeding.’ And they kept telling me to keep waiting.”
Despite her pleas for help, Pagoada was not seen by a doctor until three days later. By that time she had already miscarried.
Under ICE policy, pregnant women are not supposed to be detained.
CREDIT: Immigration and Customs Enforcement/ ACLU
ICE policy underlines that pregnant women are not to be detained. Yet, the agency has admitted to detaining hundreds of women in recent years. It’s an alarming number to look at especially considering the physical toll a detainment center’s stressful setting can take on a pregnant mother. Even more disturbing is the fact that the department has acknowledged the occurrence of three miscarriages in its custody this year as well. This is all despite the fact that a 2016 memo states that the pregnancy policy only counts women who pose a national security threat as exceptions.
Over the past year, 525 pregnant women have been detained by ICE.
Since the start of this fiscal year, which began in October 2016, 525 women have been detained and held by ICE. Whether or not these numbers have gone up under the Trump administration is still unknown. Still, various advocate and legal groups claim to see an increase in the numbers. “We are gravely concerned with the agency’s failure to abide by its own policy against detaining pregnant women, the detention conditions that have been reported by pregnant women in various detention facilities across the country, and the lack of quality medical care provided to women who are pregnant or have suffered miscarriages while in custody,” seven immigrant rights and legal organizations wrote in a complaint.
Immigration and women’s rights advocacy groups fear these trends raise new alarms. After all, if ICE is violating their own family detention center guidelines, who’s to say their adult center policies are being followed? ICE has a very detailed policy that outlines and restricts the detainment of pregnant women. Ensuring that these policies, which are meant to protect human beings, are followed should be of their upmost concern.