Talk of immigration has been at the forefront of many news organizations these past few weeks, particularly surrounding the hot button topic of family separation taking place at detention centers across the country. The controversy circulating across mainstream media outlets has been focused on the immoral implications of forcing children to live separate from their parents – and in some instances, their entire families. However, Buzzfeed news recently introduced another aspect of the United States’ reformed immigration regulations: The treatment of pregnant women in detention facilities.
According to Buzzfeed’s article, several women held at these centers were not only unable to receive necessary medical treatment or care, but were also abused. Reports of women requesting attention and being ignored or told workers couldn’t understand their language when asking for help, being shackled around their hands, feet, and bellies while well into their second and third trimesters pregnant, and even experiencing full on miscarriages without inspiring so much as a glance from workers has sparked a growing second wave of shock and concern surrounding this issue. It seems the more the world learns of the atrocities taking place within these locations, the more outlandish their guidelines seem, prompting the question: How can such actions be possible in a country which is supposed to be the “land of the free?”
Following the investigation and publication carried out by Buzzfeed, Teen Vogue also looked into the matter, reaching out to officials and searching for a response to the accusations currently being carried out in lawsuits against the centers. Launching an article of their own, the magazine explained reporters were directed to Customs and Border Protection’s National Standards on Transport, Escort, Detention, and Search Policy. The article also offered a statement provided by ICE which said, “All detainees, determined to be pregnant, are provided appropriate education, prenatal care, and postnatal care. Such care includes referral to a physician specializing in high-risk pregnancies when high risk pregnancy is indicated.”
That statement may have been an adequate response, had it not also referred to a change implemented by our new administration, which ended the “presumption of release for all pregnant detainees.” Prior to Trump’s presidency, during Barack Obama’s administration, pregnant women were not detained by ICE unless there was an extreme circumstance or in the case of expedited deportation, when an individual is denied entrance into the country or is removed from the country without experiencing any removal proceedings. Donald Trump’s reform offers a loophole for women in their third trimester of pregnancy, however, this exception is frequently overlooked.
The fact of the matter is immigration has always been an issue which has plagued this country, not because so many “illegal aliens” have been attempting to enter and join this country over the years, but because our government and by extension the American people have never truly attempted to address and humanely deal with it. Most of America’s best known immigration policies, like the Muslim ban, are some of the most strict and, like the zero tolerance reform that is forcing families apart today, most painful. Yet, it seems unless something explicitly charged like the allegation that detained children were put into cages, no one really pays attention to or understands the ongoings of our own country’s immigration system.
It is not enough to be upset only at the issues splattered across the front pages of of websites and newspapers for the week that the issue is the topic of conversation. Many of America’s issues, if not the biggest issue, is racially charged. While those being mistreated at these detention centers may be Latino, and most of the people affected by the Muslim ban are Middle Eastern, these reforms do not impact just those groups of people. On the contrary, they impact the entire country and in the worst way at that. The lack of knowledge, understanding and advocacy for those who are targeted by these orders only allows for more and more people to be mistreated and abused, which ultimately undoes the progress we have been trying to make as an American people.
If the mistreatment of these pregnant women, especially in detention facilities, bothers you, it should, but it shouldn’t stop there. Becoming informed about immigration and making sure to hold officials who rn these centers and programs accountable for treating these women in a just way will not only help those, but our own country because it restores the essence of what the United States was supposed to be in the first place.