Congresswomen Demand Answers Regarding the Mistreatment of Pregnant Migrants

Two congresswomen are calling for congressional hearings to investigate how the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on immigration is impacting the health of pregnant women.

Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) and Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) have sent letters to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, the House Committee on the Judiciary, and the House Committee on Homeland Security on June 7 about the mistreatment of pregnant migrant women by the Trump administration, a press release states. In the letters, the congresswomen state they are “deeply disturbed” by the way federal immigration agencies and federal law enforcement are treating pregnant migrants. The document cites a report from Rewire News that states that many pregnant migrants are reportedly “experiencing lapses in prenatal and gynecological care that endanger both them and their child.”

“For instance, women were reportedly shackled when accessing prenatal and postpartum care, which, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, compromises the health care women receive in numerous ways,” the letter states.

“This is barbaric, and these stories provide additional examples in a long line of ways in which the Administration has willfully mistreated migrants and separated families in the name of border security,” the letter reads.

“The officials responsible for these actions should be held accountable, and Congress should demand that they respond to these horrific reports.”

A report by the Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), a nonprofit advocacy group, documented several cases where immigration officials have interfered with medical care. In August, a man was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents while he was driving his pregnant wife to the hospital, The New York Times previously reported.

Joel Arrona Lara, 35, was driving his wife, Maria del Carmen Venegas, 32, to the hospital for a scheduled cesarean section on August 15, 2018, when they stopped for gas at a gas station in San Bernardino, California. While stopped for gas, ICE officers approached their vehicle and asked for identification, according to The Times. Arrona Lara did not have identification on him and was arrested. ICE officials said in a statement to the publication that the 35-year-old was an undocumented immigrant from Mexico and it “was brought to ICE’s attention due to an outstanding warrant issued for his arrest in Mexico on homicide charges.”

PHR also listed several other incidents in its report where federal immigration officials have stepped in and interfered with medical care, including ICE removing a patient who was waiting for a neurology appointment and the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents stopping an ambulance with a 10-year-old cerebral palsy patient who needed emergency surgery. Both ICE and CBP have standards to follow when a migrant requires medical treatment. CBP’s rules state that at least one agent should accompany the detainee to the hospital or medical facility, and if the detainee is hospitalized, the agent is asked to “document the hospitalization in the appropriate electronic system(s) of record.” ICE standards state officers should accompany and stay with the detainees while they are treated at an off-site medical facility.

PHR urges medical facilities to create policies to keep migrants safe, educate its staff on immigration issues and laws, prepare its staff on how to interact with CBP and ICE officers, and know when to report ICE or CBP for violations.“Since medical facilities are now more likely to have encounters with ICE or CBP, staff should take steps to establish their facility as a ‘sanctuary’ location, where immigrants can still seek medical attention without an enhanced risk of immigration consequences,” the PHR stated.

California is expected to become the first state in the US to offer healthcare coverage to some undocumented immigrants through its Medicaid program, CNN reported. The program would cover undocumented young adults and is part of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s bigger health care package, the news station reported. The health care package would cover 90,000 low-income residents from the ages of 19 to 25-years-old and would cost the state $98 million. If the state legislature, which is largely made up of Democrats, votes for its approval on June 15, the coverage would go into effect in 2020, according to CNN.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.