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Immigration authorities have detained more than 500 pregnant women since December. That's when the Trump administration ended a practice of releasing most pregnant women while their immigration cases are pending. The move, made public last week, has led to an outcry from immigrant advocates who say these women aren't getting adequate care. Liz Jones from member station KUOW in Seattle reports.
LIZ JONES, BYLINE: (Speaking Spanish).
JACINTA MORALES: (Speaking Spanish).
JONES: I met Jacinta Morales, who is undocumented, at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash., last year. She's in a yellow uniform, her long hair pulled back in braids. Speaking through an interpreter, she says she had complications with her pregnancy starting the day she learned Immigration and Customs Enforcement planned to put her on a flight back to Mexico.
MORALES: (Through interpreter) The day that ICE told me that I would be leaving in a week's time, I - well, I started to cry, and I had pains, and I felt nausea.
JONES: She was worried about being separated from her son in Portland, Ore. He's 11 and a U.S. citizen. Medical records from the detention center document her anxiety and that her condition was getting worse. Then one day, Morales woke up bleeding.
MORALES: (Through interpreter) And they put me in a room like this one, and I was really bleeding hard. The officer asked me if I was feeling a lot of pain, and I said yes. And she said, I'm going to go and see if they can see you quickly.
JONES: Roughly three hours after her initial complaint, she's taken to the hospital in the back of a patrol car, sitting up. Her pregnancy ends in a miscarriage. An ICE spokeswoman says Morales received appropriate care, but Morales believes more could have been done.
Morales is one of 10 pregnant women who've made a formal complaint to the Department of Homeland Security. Some say they got poor prenatal care. Others miscarried and blamed the stress of being detained. Dozens of Congress members have called for a thorough investigation. Matt Adams is with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, one of the groups representing the women.
MATT ADAMS: Enough is enough. You can move forward and enforce immigration laws, but you don't have to do it in a manner that blatantly violates human rights, that simply disregards the health of pregnant women.
JONES: Under the Obama administration, ICE updated its guidelines for pregnant women facing deportation. And generally they said don't lock them up unless there's a serious criminal history or extraordinary circumstances. The Trump administration just reversed that. Philip Miller, an ICE official, says the shift is in line with the president's crackdown on illegal immigration.
PHILIP MILLER: From our perspective, we're just aligning this policy, as we are with all of our policies, with the president's direction that we're not going to, you know, carve out classes of persons that are not subject to the law.
JONES: Rather than a blanket policy that favors releasing these women, Miller says they'll evaluate each case individually.
MILLER: Taking into account all factors to include the woman's pregnancy and ICE's ability to care for her in detention.
JONES: And other factors like if she is a flight risk or a threat to public safety. Miller says detention centers are equipped to care for pregnant immigrants but that women in their third trimester will generally be released. From inside detention, Jacinta Morales said she's telling her story in the hope that other women won't face what she went through.
MORALES: (Through interpreter) It's a place where I would not wish any woman to be in at all. It makes you feel desperate.
JONES: Morales has since been released. The judge set the bond amount at the lowest level possible, indicating she's not a flight risk or dangerous. She is now with her son in Oregon. Her immigration case is still pending. For NPR News, I'm Liz Jones in Seattle.
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