Her miscarriage in ICE detention raises questions about care

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She wears a yellow uniform, loose, with a sweatshirt underneath. Her long hair, braided in tight cornrows near her temples. Her handshake, timid.

We talk in a small meeting room at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, with her attorney and an interpreter.

Jacinta Morales is among the 10 percent of women in immigration custody in the U.S. But as the Trump Administration expands enforcement, more women are getting pulled into the system. Across the country, ICE arrests of women have climbed 35 percent in the first four months this year, compared to the same period in 2016.

In April, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested Morales near her home outside Portland, Oregon. Her experience raises questions about women in a growing detention system that’s used to mostly dealing with men.

For Morales, it’s a time marked by deep loss. But it didn’t completely start that way.

“When I got here, they did a urine test and it came out positive,” Morales said through an interpreter. “I was thrilled to be pregnant and thrilled at the prospect of being a mother again and having Gonzalo’s baby.”

Gonzalo is her longtime partner. Medical records provided by ICE confirm the details of her care.

Morales had a prenatal appointment on April 18, a few days after her arrival. Her pregnancy was four weeks along.

Two days later, a doctor note describes her as doing well with “her greatest concern for being deported without her 11 year old son.”

Her son is a U.S. citizen. Gonzalo is caring for him now.

A note in Jacinta Morales medical records at the Northwest Detention Center.

On April 22, medical records show Morales was cleared for travel. She learned she was on the flight roster for deportation.

“The day that ICE told me I would be leaving in a week’s time, I started to cry,” Morales said. “I had pains and felt nausea.”

She saw a doctor and said she felt better.

Then, a few days later, on April 29, Morales woke up bleeding.

“After an hour I went to doctor and they put me in a small room like this one, and I was really bleeding hard,” Morales recalled. “The officer asked me if I was feeling a lot of pain, and I said yes. And she said, ‘I’m going to go see if they can see you quickly.’”

Morales guesses she waited another hour, while other women were seen. She said one had a toothache.

In medical notes time-stamped around noon, Morales rated her pain 10 out of 10.

The doctor ordered a hospital ambulance. It was slow to come, so they took her in the back of a patrol car, sitting up, which she said made the bleeding worse.

At the hospital, Morales learned she'd had a miscarriage.

“My only consolation once I got out of this place was to have my baby,” Morales said. “Now I don’t have him. But I have another who’s waiting for me. That’s the only hope; the only thing I’m hanging on to.”

Medical notes on the date of Jacinta Morales's miscarriage at the Northwest Detention Center.

Federal policy

Morales’s situation raises questions about ICE’s policy concerning pregnant and nursing mothers.

An Obama-era policy, updated in 2016, says they will generally not be detained. 

But new enforcement guidelines under President Donald Trump expand ICE’s reach and eliminate some old rules.

Read the entire article at http://kuow.org/post/her-miscarriage-ice-detention-raises-questions-about-care