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Pregnant women may have special immigration detention rights

A pregnant immigrant from Honduras said that immigration officials shackled her and forced her to board a plane bound for Texas from California just days before she gave birth. The woman, who had crossed the border illegally, said that she was sexually assaulted in a Mexican town. She tells a horrific immigration story involving kidnapping, abuse and substandard medical care. However, the woman was released on humanitarian parole because of her pregnancy status.

The woman was on her way to Houston when she was reportedly kidnapped in a border town and held for three months in a tiny room. Her kidnappers reportedly raped her and impregnated her. When the woman finally made it across the border into California, she was apprehended within minutes.

When the woman was apprehended, she told Customs and Border Protection authorities that she was pregnant, but they refused to call a physician. She did not receive vitamins, food or extra medical care until she arrived at a detention center. She was held at the center for about a week.

Guidelines promulgated in 2011 indicate that pregnant or nursing illegal immigrants should not be held in detention unless they meet certain criteria, such as belonging to a gang. The woman was allowed to leave the detention center after a week, and she was taken to a shelter in El Paso, Texas. Just nine days after her release, she gave birth to a baby girl.

Although the woman was required to spend a week in a detention center, she was ultimately released because of humanitarian guidelines that govern Immigration and Customs Enforcement activities. Pregnant or nursing immigrants who are being held for extended periods of time in Texas detention centers may have additional rights. These immigrants may benefit from consulting a Texas immigration attorney.

Source:  KENS 5, "Pregnant woman sent to immigration detention center just days before giving birth" Angela Kocherga, Feb. 28, 2014

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