Things That Matter

ICE Says They Rescued A Mother And Her Newborn But Then They Turned Around And Separated Them

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency had recently released a story about how border agents had ‘rescued’ a woman and her newborn baby in the middle of the Texas desert. In their release, they detailed how the pair were provided with immediate medical treatment, however, they failed to mention that the mother was immediately separated from her newborn.

As the case gains more attention, immigration advocates and legal officials are coming forward with new details in the woman’s case and it’s helping to paint a very different picture from the one given by border officials.

New details are emerging after ICE said they had ‘rescued’ a woman in labor.

An entirely new picture is emerging regarding a story put out by ICE itself saying they had ‘rescued’ a woman in labor. However, ICE officials forgot to mention one very important detail – just hours after their supposed rescue – they separated the woman from her newborn baby and detained her pending her possible removal from the country.

According to the ICE press release, border agents responded to a 911 call and found the woman soon after she had delivered her baby alone in a field near Eagle Pass, Texas. Officials first transported the mother and child to a nearby hospital, then the baby was airlifted to a neonatal care unit hours from where the mother was being held in custody.

“They told her she was going to be sent back to Mexico without her baby,” according to Amy Maldonado, who is legally representing the mother, and spoke to the LA Times.

The mother and baby have since been reunited but a legal process is still playing out regarding their future.

It wasn’t until the LA Times published a story about what had happened that ICE released the mother from custody, and she was reunited with her baby in San Antonio.

According to Austin Skero, chief patrol agent for the Del Rio sector, who responded in a tweet to The Times, agents had to separate the mother and baby due to the San Antonio hospital’s COVID-19 policy for the neonatal unit, which the hospital immediately disputed.

Leni Kirkman, representative for University Hospital in San Antonio, told The Times in an interview the statements were not correct. 

“That is definitely not the hospital policy,” she said. “We do not separate babies and parents.”

Even during a surge in COVID-19 cases in Texas, “which fortunately we’re not in now,” she said, “the parents of NICU babies got to be with their baby. That was not something we backed off on. Babies need to be with their parents.”

Not surprisingly, ICE has a history of separating mothers from their newborn and nursing children.

Sadly, there are many stories of mothers being torn apart from their children – including those who still require breastfeeding.

Last year, following the ICE raids of processing plants in Mississippi, details emerged of a mother who picked up by ICE and unable to see her 4-month-old daughte, who she was still nursing – and who herself is a U.S. citizen.

Advocates also report that some asylum seekers in the Texas who have given birth in ICE custody were forced to hand over their newborns to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). Reuniting with their newborn hinges on their release from federal custody, and whether they can access legal help to navigate the child welfare system.

Last year, DFPS attempted to place a detained woman’s newborn in foster care. The woman “cried for 72 hours straight,” a Texas OB-GYN told Rewire.News. The OB-GYN held the woman at the hospital for five days so that she could see a psychologist.

“I was worried she was going to hurt herself when they took her back to the detention center,” the doctor said. “Luckily in her case, they were eventually able to locate an aunt-in-law, her uncle’s wife, who lived in Chicago. But this wasn’t a blood relative, and it wasn’t someone she’d ever met before.”

The mother of the newborn had attempted to seek asylum in the U.S. but was forced to stay in Mexico.

The mother picked up by ICE with her newborn, whose name has not been released, had recently applied for asylum at the border earlier this year with her older child, who is 6-years-old, but officials put them into the controversial “Remain In Mexico” program.

The Migrant Protection Protocols (or MPP) sent them back to Mexico to wait until their asylum hearing. Under MPP, tens of thousands of asylum seekers have been forced back to dangerous Mexican border towns to await hearings in the United States, some for more than a year. Citing the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration closed the U.S.-Mexico border in March to all nonessential travel and indefinitely postponed most MPP hearings. 

The American Civil Liberties Union has challenged the Homeland Security Department over its “treatment of pregnant people, or people in active labor, delivery, or post-delivery recuperation in CBP custody or subject to the MPP,” and called for an investigation into returning pregnant women to Mexico under MPP.

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ICE Has Gone Rogue As It Continues With Deportations Despite Several Policy Changes

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ICE Has Gone Rogue As It Continues With Deportations Despite Several Policy Changes

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Long before taking office, President Biden vowed to undo many of the Trump administration’s most cruel and inhumane immigration policies within days of taking office. But despite several executive orders, Biden’s policies have met several roadblocks and swift changes in immigration policy have yet to arrive.

One major roadblock to ending deportations has been a federal judge that placed a hold on a Biden’s executive order and the other has been a “rogue agency” that’s continued several of Trump’s immigration policies.

Migrant rights advocates are calling ICE a “rogue agency” as it faces new allegations of abuse.

Although President Biden has outlined his immigration policy and installed his new head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – which oversees ICE – the White House still does not have full control of ICE, which faces multiple allegations of human rights abuses and allegations that it has disproportionately targeted Black migrants.

The agency also continues to deport immigrants who don’t fit the categories approved for deportation by DHS – even those who had been taken off deportation flights just hours before.

Many deportees are claiming that ICE has stepped up its torture of detainees.

Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Several migrant rights groups – Freedom for Immigrants, Al Otro Lado and Advocates for Immigrants Rights – published affidavits from Cameroonian asylum seekers who they said were tortured by being forced to approve their own deportations. The asylum seekers described being forced to the floor and having their fingers inked and pressed on to deportation documents they had refused to sign.

According to The Guardian, one Cameroonian asylum seeker described being brought into a room with darkened windows where he was forced by agents to put his fingerprint on a document in lieu of a signature, waiving his rights to further legal process before deportation.

“I tried to stand up because of the force that they were using on me, and they tripped me,” HT said. “I fell on the floor; I kept my hands under my body. I held my hands tight at waist level so they could not have them. Five of the Ice officers and one of the officers in green … joined them. They pressed me down and said that I needed to give them my finger for the fingerprint.”

One man was put on a flight to Haiti even though he’s not Haitian and had never been to that country.

And despite new directives from DHS and the Biden administration, ICE continues to carry out deportation flights containing people who fit none of the current criteria for deportation.

Just last week, Paul Pierrilus, a 40-year-old financial consultant from New York, who had never been to Haiti and is not a Haitian citizen, was taken off a deportation flight at the last moment after the intervention of his local congressman, Mondaire Jones. But just days later, ICE put him on another plane and sent him to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Jones told the Guardian: “Ice is a rogue agency that must be brought to heel. There is no world in which an agency under the control of the leader of the executive branch should continue to deport people after the president of the United States signed an executive order halting deportations for 100 days.”

However, the Biden administration has also moved forward on its own with many deportations.

It’s true that a federal judge ordered the Biden administration not to enforce a 100-day pause on deportations, but the ruling did not require the government to schedule them. However, the administration has moved forward on deportations for hundreds of immigrants within the past two weeks.

It’s unclear how many of those people are considered national security or public safety threats or had recently crossed the border illegally, the priority under new guidance that DHS issued to enforcement agencies.

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The Number Of Migrant Kids Still Separated From Family Rises To 666 As The Search Continues To Find Missing Parents

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The Number Of Migrant Kids Still Separated From Family Rises To 666 As The Search Continues To Find Missing Parents

Loren Elliot / AFP / Getty Images

Despite widespread efforts by an international network of volunteers and lawyers, hundreds of kids remain separated from their parents as a result of Trump’s cruel immigration policies.

Volunteers had been calling hundreds of phone numbers provided by the government and even had been going door to door in several Central American countries in an attempt to locate family members. However, much of that search has been put on hold thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, new information provided by the government indicates that the number of children missing their parents now stands at 666. A number that is growing as more evidence comes to light, despite the fact lawyers have successfully reunited many families.

Lawyers working to reunite children with their parents say that the number of cases is higher than previously thought.

Lawyers who have been working to reunite migrant families separated by Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy at the border now believe the number of separated children for whom they have not been able to find parents is 666, higher than they told a federal judge last month, according to an email obtained by NBC News.

Previously, the lawyers said they could not find the parents of 545 children after they had tried to make contact but had been unsuccessful. But in a new email, lawyers point out that the number is higher because the new group includes those “for whom the government did not provide any phone number.”

Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, explained to NBC News that the new number “includes individuals in addition to 545 for whom we got no information from government that would allow meaningful searches but are hopeful the government will now provide with that information.”

However, the work to reunite families continues as a strong pace.

As the administration provided lawyers with additional phone numbers to aid the long-running search, the search continues.

Volunteers have searched for parents by phone and by going door-to-door across Central America, which has been interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee has also established toll-free numbers in the U.S., Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and mailed letters to 1,600 potential families.

According to the committee, it’s believed that the parents of 333 children are currently in the U.S., while parents of the other 295 are believed to be outside the country.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the parents and children are still separated, only that the committee has been unable to locate the parents. The committee has found other family members for 168 of the 628 children whose parents have yet to be located. So progress is being made, regardless of how slow it is.

The family separations were a result of a ‘zero tolerance’ policy pursued by the Trump administration.

Shortly after taking office, Trump made it clear that cruelty would be the focus of his immigration policy. And he quickly followed that promise up with actual policy, instituting a so-called ‘zero tolerance’ policy on the U.S.-Mexico border that led to migrant families being separated.

Prior to the borderwide “zero tolerance” policy, the Trump administration tested family separation in a pilot program in the El Paso sector. The vast majority of the children referenced in the email obtained by NBC News were separated during this pilot program, but the total also includes some children who were separated under zero tolerance.

More than 2,700 children were separated from their parents in June 2018 when U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego ordered an end to the practice under the “zero-tolerance” policy. He ordered them reunited within 30 days. And now here we are more than two years later.

Biden says that he is committed to reuniting all families separated under Trump’s cruel immigration policies.

As president, Joe Biden has committed to reuniting families who were separated under Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy. However, Biden has so far not decided whether separated parents who remain outside the U.S. will be given the opportunity to come to the country to reunite with their children and pursue claims to asylum.

The ACLU wants Biden to allow separated families to return to the United States to be given some kind of legal status.

“We think that’s only fair given what they’ve been put through,” Lee Gelernt, attorney representing parents for the American Civil Liberties Union, told the AP. “We will find the families but we cannot provide the families with the right to return to the United States and give legal status. Only the administration can do that.”

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