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Hannah Gaber, USA TODAY
A 24-year-old Honduran woman in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement went into premature labor and delivered a stillborn baby at an immigration detention center in Texas, according to ICE and Customs and Border Protection officials.
The stillbirth comes after three people, including two children, died while in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection since December.
The woman reported she was six months pregnant when she was apprehended by the Border Patrol shortly before midnight on Feb. 18 near Hidalgo, Texas, ICE and CBP officials said in a joint statement released Monday.
While in Border Patrol custody, the woman was taken to the hospital and cleared for release on Feb. 21 after receiving two medical screenings, the statement said.
The woman was then transferred to ICE custody to be processed for release at the Port Isabel Detention Center, near Brownsville in south Texas.
That evening, while being processed for release, the woman complained of abdominal pain, the statement said. She was examined by ICE Health Service Corps. The clinical director ordered that the woman be sent to the hospital. EMTs were also called.
The woman conveyed that the baby was coming and went into premature labor. She delivered an unresponsive male infant at 27 weeks pregnant, the statement said.
ICE Health Service Corps began CPR. EMS transported the woman and the infant to the Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen, Texas, where the infant was later pronounced dead.
The woman’s name and identifying details are being withheld to protect her privacy, the statement said.
She remains in ICE custody awaiting medical clearance before she will be released, the statement said.
A stillbirth is not considered an in-custody death for investigative and reporting purposes, the statement said.
“ICE and CBP officials are proactively disclosing the details of this tragic event to be transparent with Congress, the media and the public,” the statement said.
Under ICE detention guidelines adopted in 2017, pregnant detainees in ICE custody must be identified, monitored, tracked and housed in an appropriate facility to manage their care.
On Feb. 18, a 45-year-old undocumented immigrant from Mexico died in Border Patrol custody after crossing the border illegally into Texas.
In that incident, the immigrant requested medical attention after being arrested by the Roma (Texas) Police Department on Feb. 2. The immigrant was taken to a local hospital, and then transferred to CBP custody after he “was cleared” by officials at the Mission Regional Medical Center, CBP said in a statement.
The immigrant requested medical attention the following day after receiving a welfare check by CBP officials. The immigrant was taken to the McAllen Medical Center, where the immigrant was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and congestive heart failure, CBP said. The immigrant remained at the hospital before dying, the statement said.
The death of the 45-year-old immigrant from Mexico followed two cases in December when children from Guatemala died after crossing the U.S. border into New Mexico. The children were aged 7 and 8. Their deaths drew widespread condemnation from critics of the Border Patrol.
The deaths prompted Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan to issue new guidelines that require agents to more quickly inform CBP leadership, Congress, and the public of the death of people in its custody.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen later followed up by ordering more robust medical screenings of children it holds in its custody.
The deaths come amid a surge in families and unaccompanied minors arriving at the southern border and crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally and then asking for asylum.
The Border Patrol apprehended 99,901 family members through the first four months of the current fiscal year, which started Oct. 1. That is nearly the 107,212 family members apprehended all of the previous fiscal year. It is up nearly 290 percent from the 25,625 family members apprehended during the same four months the previous year, according to CBP statistics.
In addition, the Border Patrol has apprehended 20,123 unaccompanied minors during the first four months of this fiscal year. That is up nearly 40 percent from the 14,390 during the same period the previous year, according to CBP statistics.
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