TRAGEDY: Woman delivers stillborn at Port Isabel detention center

Members of La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) and other protestors hold a vigil outside the Port Isabel Processing
Center Wednesday to demand justice for immigrants who have died while in federal custody. During the vigil, three
transport buses drove into the facility.
Dina Arévalo | Staff photographer

Immigrant activists hold vigil outside facility

Port Isabel-South Padre Press

A 24-year-old pregnant Honduran woman being held at the Port Isabel Processing Center went into labor prematurely last Friday, Feb. 22, delivering a stillborn while at the immigration detention facility.

The news first broke when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) published a statement regarding the incident online on Monday. The woman, whom ICE declined to identify citing safety concerns, was six months pregnant at the time she went into labor.

The woman, whom the PRESS is calling Esperanza — the Spanish word for hope — was apprehended by immigration officials last Monday, Feb. 18 near Hidalgo. On Thursday, she was “cleared for release” after a visit to an area hospital, the ICE statement reads.

The following evening, she began to experience abdominal pain. Officials called for an ambulance, but labor began before it could arrive. “At that time, (Esperanza) conveyed that the baby was coming. She went into premature labor, at 27 weeks pregnant, and delivered an unresponsive male infant,” the statement reads.

Mother and child were transported by ambulance to Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen while ICE officials attempted to administer CPR to the baby. The boy was pronounced dead at the hospital.

According to press release, the agency said it went public with the details of the incident in order to be transparent. “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 reads.

But, the statement also specified that ICE does not consider the stillborn child to be an “in-custody death.”


That lack of classification is seen as an affront by local human rights activists, including La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH).

Members of the two organizations, along with local residents, gathered outside the detention center Wednesday afternoon to hold a vigil in remembrance of Esperanza’s infant son, as well as others who have died while in ICE custody.

“As we’ve seen, a long string of abuses coming from immigration, we’d like to make it known that no one deserves to be incarcerated — and there’s no conditions that they could provide inside of detention that would have been conducive to the pregnancy of this woman,” said Nancy Cardenas Peña, state director for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, said before the vigil got underway.

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