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On Tuesday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that the agency would release 12 babies they were detaining at their facility in Dilley, Texas. Their statement followed immigration advocates filing a complaint to the Department of Homeland Security claiming that the infants were deprived of adequate medical care, clean water, and a sufficient amount of baby food, and demanding their release.
ICE says that there were a total of 16 infants under the age of 1 year old being detained at the facility as of March 1. The statement also revealed that another infant under a year old was held at a nearby facility. According to CBS News, the babies and their mothers will be released to friends and family.
“Every mother I spoke to said that her child was sick in some way,” Katy Murdza, advocacy coordinator at the American Immigration Council’s Dilley Pro Bono Project, told CBS. “It’s just really hard seeing all of these very small babies in a detention setting.”
Murdza has worked with immigrants at the Dilley Detention Center for two years and told CBS that she has never seen as many infants detained as she has seen in recent weeks.
Doctors who visited the facility reportedly said that many of the babies were underweight, and that Dilley did not have sufficient medical care for an infant — especially considering that there are constant reports from advocates that Dilley and other ICE facilities do not adequately respond to the medical needs of the people they detain.
The release of the 12 infants follows other reports that at least 1,500 pregnant women were detained by ICE in the 2017–2018 fiscal year, following a policy change under the Trump administration. Just last week, ICE admitted that a 24-year-old Honduran woman went into premature labor at six months pregnant and gave birth to a stillborn child. In the last year, three children under the age of 10 have died from illnesses after being detained by immigration officials, and thousands of others filed complaints alleging that they were sexually abused while detained.
In a statement to CBS News, ICE maintained that their facilities have “comprehensive medical care.”