ICE says an infant who died when a detained immigrant went into early labor doesn't really count as a death

ICE says an infant who died when a detained immigrant went into early labor doesn't really count as a death
Image credit: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Last Friday, a Honduran migrant woman at the Port Isabel Detention Center north of Brownsville, Texas went into premature labor at 27 weeks pregnant, just as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was processing her for release, delivering a stillborn male infant.

In a joint statement by ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), however, the agencies seemingly went out of their way to stress their lack of responsibility for the incident.

"Although for investigative and reporting purposes, a stillbirth is not considered an in-custody death, ICE and CBP officials are proactively disclosing the details of this tragic event to be transparent with Congress, the media and the public," said the statement, which also emphasized that the Border Patrol gave the woman multiple medical screenings and the ICE Health Service Corps attempted to administer CPR on the infant before transferring him and his mother to the Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen, Texas.

Nonetheless, the incident marks yet another case of a child dying while in the hands of U.S. immigration officers.

In early December, 7-year-old Jakelin Caal, a migrant girl from Guatemala, died of exhaustion and dehydration shortly after being taken into custody by Border Patrol agents. This incident was followed, on Christmas Eve, by the death of 8-year-old Alonzo Gomez, another Guatemalan migrant, who suffered from a cough and fever.

The failure of the Trump administration to help the most vulnerable of Central American migrants stands in stark contrast to their fanatical obsession with protecting unborn migrants. Former Office of Refugee Resettlement Director Scott Lloyd, who was recently reassigned, aggressively sought to prevent shelters and sponsors of refugee children from taking any steps to allow them to obtain abortions, including at least one rape survivor. The D.C. Court of Appeals ultimately rebuked the Department of Health and Human Services over the policy.

Not all deaths in custody will be preventable. But the government should handle any incidents with care and compassion, and take all possible steps to ensure detainees are safe.

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