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Concerns Grow Over Treatment of Immigrant Women in Detention

The Geauga County Safety Center is one of five facilities in Ohio that serve as ICE detention centers. (Geauga County Sheriff's Office)
The Geauga County Safety Center is one of five facilities in Ohio that serve as ICE detention centers. (Geauga County Sheriff's Office)
July 16, 2018

COLUMBUS, Ohio — This week, members of Congress will continue their push for an investigation into the detention of pregnant women in Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities.

Numerous reports of pregnant women miscarrying and being denied proper health care in ICE custody were made public last week. The grassroots organization MomsRising has been following anecdotal stories since last year, after hearing of one pregnant woman's treatment in a California detention center.

Nadia Hussain is director of maternal justice for the group.

"We do not think this is an isolated incident. In our research, we found that the lack of health care, lack of food for pregnant women, and other pregnant women miscarrying, there's a history of it,” Hussain said. “The difference is now; during the Obama administration, there was a policy that pregnant women should not be detained."

Five facilities in Ohio serve as ICE detention centers. In March, the Trump administration announced it would no longer automatically release pregnant immigrants from detention, but the policy was actually implemented three months prior.

A federal directive regarding the change in policy states that ICE is responsible for "ensuring pregnant detainees receive appropriate medical care including effectuating transfers to facilities that are able to provide appropriate medical treatment."

But Hussain and others have heard reports that ICE is not abiding by the directive, denying medical care and shackling pregnant women, against the advice of medical professionals. Hussain describes the report from an immigrant at the California facility.

"She was not given proper food. She was not given rest. They kind of ignored the fact that she was pregnant,” she said. “Detention itself is problematic, very much so, but especially detaining pregnant women who are already in a vulnerable position, health-wise."

On Friday, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, D-California, wrote a letter calling on the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General to investigate the detention of pregnant women in ICE facilities.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH