A pregnant undocumented woman who was suffering abuse in the hands of United States immigration officials was finally released, after civil rights advocates did not let them off the hook that easily.
Maria Solis, 28, was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) just days after she discovered she was pregnant.
Because of her history of high-risk pregnancies and her current health state, she feared she would suffer a miscarriage. In order to help the undocumented mother of three, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of San Diego started demanding ICE release her and let her work on her immigration case from home.
Solis was detained on Aug. 1 and placed under ICE’s care. During the entire period she stayed under their care, she experienced severe cramping, lack of access to vitamins, poor medical care due to broken ultrasound machines, fainting episodes, and even exposure to harsh cleaning products.
Scared her pregnancy could come to an end due to the stressful situation she was experiencing, ACLU wrote a letter to ICE stating that its attorneys are “deeply concerned” about her state.
“The emotional and physical pressures inherent to detention produce unnecessary stress and trauma that can cause complications during pregnancy," ACLU San Diego told ICE. "Among other problems, high levels of prenatal stress can increase the risk of stillbirth and cause brain disorders. Because of those concerns, there is a growing consensus that detention of pregnant women should be avoided.”
Solis, ACLU explained, has a history of domestic abuse and has suffered tremendously in all of her previous pregnancies. But as an immigrant, the organization continued, Solis does not pose any security risk. And according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), pregnant women should not be held in custody, unless their case falls under certain categories. Still, the ACLU said that ICE refused to let her go for a month and a half.
In an Aug. 31 letter, ICE Assistant Field Office Director Joseph Greene said that Solis’ request to be released was not going to be granted. ACLU fired back, saying Greene offered “no justification” to keep the pregnant woman in ICE’s custody.
“We urge you to review her case and promptly order her release, as there are no extraordinary circumstances to warrant her continued detention while she pursues relief from removal,” ACLU wrote ICE.
A petition on Change.org asking for Solis’ release had already gathered over 2,700 signatures as the ACLU continued to press ICE to release the woman immediately.
Then during a court hearing, Solis, who had first agreed to deportation, was later allowed to go after ICE changed its mind, deciding to release her into the U.S. instead. This move followed an order that allows her to remain in the country while she waits to hear back about her U-visa application.
Leah Chavarria, Solis’ attorney, says that while her case isn’t common, it’s ICE’s discretion.
“I feel obviously extremely ecstatic for Maria and her baby on the way, and her children here already,” Chavarria told reporters. Still, she added, “I’m frustrated with the process that we had to go through so much to get her released.”
Unfortunately, many other women under the same circumstances remain in detention even if they do not pose a threat and would be allowed to fight their case out of jail under different circumstances.
Hopefully, this case is able to spark a debate regarding ICE detention conditions and how countless undocumented immigrants are mistreated and abused on a regular basis under the care of our nation’s immigration authorities.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Josue Decavele