Breaking: ICE crashed a van full of eight mothers separated from their children in Texas, then outright denied it happened for three weeks... Until we got the police report and interviewed four passengers. https://t.co/LE766OcvxH pic.twitter.com/uCwNM3FztV— Kolten Parker (@KoltenParker) August 8, 2018
ICE officials repeatedly lied for weeks about an incident involving a van full of immigrant mothers crashing into another vehicle on the way to reuniting them with their separated children.
The Texas Observer published details of the accounts of the eight women involved, as well as a police report backing up their story. On July 18, a van transporting the women from one detention center to another, where their children were awaiting them, did not come to a complete stop while exiting a gas station, ramming itself into an incoming truck.
There was significant damage to both vehicles. The police report of the incident said that, on a scale from 1 to 7 (the higher number being the worst), the vehicle transporting the women suffered damage equal to a “4” rating. The van was deemed inoperable, requiring a tow truck to transport it away.
The women reportedly suffered injuries. Never instructed to fasten their seatbelts, the women were slammed against the seats in front of them, suffering headaches, dizziness, and nausea after the incident. One woman had significant swelling in her leg after the crash.
An ambulance appeared at the scene, but all of the women refused to be transported to an area hospital, fearing that doing so would delay reunification with their children.
“We were all trembling with shock from the accident; my whole body hurt,” said one of the women, who did not disclose her full name.
“The crash was really strong, like maybe we were going to flip,” another anonymous passenger said of the impact.
In the days after the accident occurred, however, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) denied it even happened, despite a tip to the publication from an immigrants' rights activist.
“Your sources misinformed you. There was no crash,” Leticia Zamarripa, an ICE spokeswoman, said two days after the crash.
Three weeks later, when The Observer confronted ICE officials with the police report, the agency finally relented that the accident had happened. But according to spokeswoman Adelina Pruneda, it was simply a “fender bender not vehicle crash” that “resulted in minor damage to both vehicles.” Pruneda also said the vehicle was still operational, contradicting what the police report had said.
This isn’t the only documented occasion that the agency has been caught lying about immigrants in its custody. Earlier this year it was revealed that ICE had constantly lied about an immigrant they said had ties to gangs, in an effort to justify trying to deport that individual, who was also a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
ICE should be held accountable for its repeated lies to media and to the American people. It has put these families of immigrants, who have been separated from their children, through quite enough already. Lying about how they were treated, including this specific accident, is unacceptable.
Banner/thumbnail image credit: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters