A 24-year-old Honduran woman gave birth to a stillborn baby boy last week while in ICE custody, the authorities said Monday, further raising concerns about the care pregnant women receive while detained.
The woman, whose name has not been released, was apprehended by United States Border Patrol officials near Hidalgo, Tex., on Feb. 18, according to a joint statement issued Monday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection. She told the authorities that she was six months pregnant, and she was taken to a hospital and examined, the agencies said.
The woman was placed in ICE custody at the Port Isabel Detention Center near Los Frenos, Tex., and set to be released last Friday. Then she complained of abdominal pain and was to be sent to a hospital, but went into labor.
She gave birth to an unresponsive baby boy. Danielle Bennett, an ICE spokeswoman, said she had seen no information that indicated the woman’s detention contributed to the stillbirth.
“Although for investigative and reporting purposes, a stillbirth is not considered an in-custody death, ICE and CBP officials are proactively disclosing the details of this tragic event to be transparent with Congress, the media and the public,” the agencies said in the statement.
Ms. Bennett said that ICE has 60 pregnant detainees in custody and that between Oct. 1, 2017, and Aug. 31, 2018, more than 1,600 pregnant women had been booked into ICE custody.
Twenty-eight women “may have experienced a miscarriage just prior to, or while in ICE custody” between Oct. 1, 2016, and Aug. 31, 2018, she said.
Ms. Bennett said that without a full understanding of someone’s medical history, it was difficult to tell what caused a miscarriage or when exactly it began.
Randy Capps, director of United States research for the Migration Policy Institute, said because the woman’s detention was only for a few days, “it would seem unlikely detention was the cause” of the stillbirth.
But how immigration officials care for people in their custody has been under scrutiny in recent months. An 8-year-old Guatemalan boy, Felipe Gómez Alonso, died on Christmas Eve while in United States custody, and three weeks earlier, a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl, Jakelin Caal Maquin, died in Border Patrol custody.
“There has been more and more public death,” said Erika Andiola, chief of advocacy for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, or Raices, a nonprofit organization that provides low-cost legal defense services to immigrant and refugee families in Texas.
She said the treatment of pregnant women had been a particular focus after the Trump administration said it would stop assuming pregnant women should be released, instead detaining them on a case-by-case basis.
Ms. Andiola said based on interviews with migrants who have recently left detention centers, some pregnant women do not get the care they need at the centers. For example, some were told they would be taken to off-site medical professionals but never were, she said.
“We know those are not the best conditions for pregnant women at all,” Ms. Andiola said. “This is not surprising, really.”
The story of the Honduran woman detailed Monday still has many uncertainties. It is not clear how or why she was taken into custody by the Border Patrol officers or how it was determined that she should be released.
Ms. Bennett, the spokeswoman, referred questions about the woman’s apprehension to Customs and Border Protection. C.B.P. did not answer questions seeking more information Monday.