Chairs Maloney and Raskin Release Troubling New Report on Pregnant Women in DHS Detention

Apr 21, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Apr. 21, 2020)— Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Jamie Raskin, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, released a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) entitled “Care of Pregnant Women in DHS Facilities.”

“This independent report documents troubling instances of inadequate care and complaints of mistreatment of these vulnerable pregnant women,” said Chairwoman Maloney.  “This report comes at a time when the Administration is refusing to release hundreds of pregnant women and other medically at-risk individuals who are vulnerable to the coronavirus in crowded detention facilities.”

“Today’s report confirms the Trump Administration has detained an unprecedented number of pregnant immigrants, following a broader pattern of cruel and unnecessary detention,” said Chairman Raskin.  “It is absolutely critical, now more than ever, that the Administration reverse course immediately and release non-violent detainees before it is too late to prevent a public health nightmare.”

Below are key findings from the new report about pregnant women detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP):

  • In 2018, DHS detained more than 2,000 pregnant women, including more than 275 who were detained for at least one month and 15 who were detained for at least three months.
     
  • “Regarding the complaints against ICE, the most common type was that ICE allegedly did not provide medical care, or that the medical care was not quality or timely.”
     
  • “Regarding complaints against CBP, the most common type was that pregnant women had allegedly been physically, verbally, or otherwise mistreated.”
     
  • “An investigation substantiated one complaint that a Border Patrol agent violated social media policy by posting a picture and information about a pregnant woman in custody."
     
  • GAO confirmed with the Committee that CBP received this complaint in January 2019 and that the agent posted a photo of the woman without her consent with the caption, “another anchor baby in the works.”  CBP suspended the agent for two days.
     
  • Additional instances of inadequate care included two pregnant detainees who were placed in solitary confinement “at some point during their detention—one for 8 days and one for over 4 months.”
     
  • Another pregnant detainee was “not afforded access to specialized care, including an obstetric evaluation” and “was not offered a mental health assessment after reporting that she had a miscarriage at a prior facility.”
     
  • Four pregnant women who had been in detention pregnant reported serious concerns about their treatment:
     
    • “None of the women said that they received appropriate accommodations.  For example, all of the women said that they slept on the floor.”
       
    • “None of the four women said that they received adequate nutrition and snacks.  For example, three of the women said that they did not receive additional food because of their pregnancy.”
       
    • “All four of the women identified concerns with medical care.  For example, one woman said that officials were dismissive when she requested a visit at the clinic because she felt sick.”

Additional Background

  • One woman recently reported that she “gave birth to her baby while standing up, holding on to the side of a trash can in a Border Patrol station.”  She alleged that she repeatedly requested help, but CBP agents told her to sit and wait.
     
  • Advocates filed a complaint with the DHS Inspector General with first-hand accounts of mistreatment, including a pregnant woman who alleged that a CBP agent “slammed her face-first against a chain link fence three times” in front of her two young children.
     
  • Last June, Reps. Maloney and Escobar wrote a letter to then-Chairman Cummings requesting that the Committee investigate how the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy affects pregnant migrants.  On July 10, 2019, the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties addressed the treatment of pregnant women in DHS custody at a hearing.
     
  • On April 7, 2020, Chairwoman Maloney and Chairman Raskin sent a letter calling on DHS “to immediately release non-violent detainees, prioritizing those who are at higher risk for complications from coronavirus.”
     
  • On April 17, 2020, ICE Acting Director Matthew Albence confirmed to Committee Members that ICE has released fewer than 700 vulnerable individuals, and is continuing to detain more than 32,000 men and women.  Acting Director Albence stated that “our review of our existing population has been completed” and that ICE does not plan to release any other detainees to slow the spread of coronavirus in detention facilities.

Click here to read the full report.

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116th Congress