Groups demand an immediate investigation into the medical care a mother received in ICE detention, after her pregnancy ended in a stillbirth

For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, February 28, 2019
Reports show inadequate medical care has contributed to numerous deaths in detention

Los Fresnos, TX — Members of the #DefundHate coalition and a local immigrant rights group are deeply saddened to learn of a stillborn baby at the Port Isabel Detention Center on February 22, as the mother was held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody for nearly a week following the tragedy.

“We call for an immediate investigation into the medical care the mother received in ICE custody,” said Nancy Cárdenas Peña, Texas Director for State Policy and Advocacy of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. "We know that regardless of what conditions are promised by ICE within detention centers, there is no standard of reproductive healthcare that can be maintained to sustain the well being of incarcerated individuals, much less that of a pregnant woman."

The Port Isabel Detention Center has a long history of problems which underscores issues endemic to the immigration detention system.

“The immigration detention system is plagued by egregiously poor conditions, a lack of accountability and a culture of secrecy,” said Becky Belcore, Co-Director of NAKASEC and member of the #DefundHate Coalition. “The evidence is conclusive: immigration detention is an unjust, inhumane and abusive system.”

Since 2003, 188 people have died in immigrant detention. Recent investigations into deaths in immigration detention, Code Red: The Fatal Consequences of Dangerously Substandard Medical Care in Immigration Detention, Fatal Neglect: How ICE Ignores Deaths in Detention and Systemic Indifference: Dangerous and Substandard Medical Care in US Immigration Detention, have found that inadequate medical care has contributed to numerous deaths.

“Despite ICE’s well-documented track-record of abuse, Congress just bankrolled a massive expansion of the immigration detention system,” said Mary Small, Policy Director of Detention Watch Network and member of the #DefundHate Coalition. “The increased funding for detention results in people separated from their loved ones, communities reeling and lives in jeopardy.”

For over a year, the Defund Hate Coalition has advocated for members of Congress and state and local officials to reject Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda, including by defunding the agencies that are militarizing, incarcerating, and surveilling immigrant communities.

“The consequences of Congress rubber stamping Trump’s anti-immigrant policies and giving him billions to carry them out, has meant more detentions, deportations and death of immigrants like the child of the Honduran woman in ICE custody,” said Sanaa Abrar, Advocacy Director of United We Dream and member of the #DefundHate Coalition. “Our elected officials must do more than just stand with immigrant communities. It’s time to stop wasting taxpayer dollars on the abusive and deadly immigration enforcement system and defund these agencies.”


Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to expose and challenge the injustices of the United States’ immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons. Founded in 1997 by immigrant rights groups, DWN brings together advocates to unify strategy and build partnerships on a local and national level to end immigration detention. Visit Follow @DetentionWatch.

Founded in 1994, the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC)’s mission is to organize Korean and Asian Americans to achieve social, economic, and racial justice. NAKASEC maintains offices in Annandale, Virginia, Chicago, Illinois and Los Angeles, California. NAKASEC has affiliates in Chicago (HANA Center), Los Angeles and Orange County (Korean Resource Center), and Virginia (NAKASEC VA). Follow @nakasec.

United We Dream is the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation, a powerful network made up of over 500,000 members, five branches with over 100 affiliate organizations across 28 states. UWD’s vision is to build a multi-racial, multi-ethnic movement of young people who organize and advocate at the local and national levels for the dignity and justice of immigrants and communities of color in the United States. You can find more about UWD online at