SAN DIEGO (CN) – The American Civil Liberties Union said Monday that an undocumented pregnant woman with a history of high-risk pregnancies is being held in an immigrant detention facility and denied access to basic medical care in violation of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s own policies.
The ACLU says Maria Solis, a resident of the north coastal San Diego community of Oceanside, was picked up by ICE agents on Aug. 1, just days after finding out she is pregnant. The group says Solis has been held at the Otay Mesa Detention Facility since.
She was previously deported in 2007 at the age of 19 and is the mother of three children who are U.S. citizens, according to a letter ACLU attorney Bardis Vakili sent to ICE Monday demanding Solis’ release.
Solis has no criminal record.
The ACLU says Solis’ detention violates a 2014 directive from former Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson that pregnant women would not be held in detention facilities “absent extraordinary circumstances or requirement of mandatory detention.”
Solis’ request to be released, based on Johnson’s directive and 2016 follow-up memo by acting ICE director Thomas Homan, was denied in “a two-sentence letter” on Aug. 31 by ICE assistant field office director Joseph Green.
Green’s letter did not say whether Solis is subject to mandatory detention or that extraordinary circumstances exist, Vakili wrote in the six-page letter calling for Solis’ release.
The detention memos also require ICE to evaluate “at least weekly” whether it is appropriate to continue detaining a pregnant woman. Solis’ attorney said it’s unclear if that’s happened.
Solis has given birth to premature children and was placed on bed rest by a doctor during a prior pregnancy. The ACLU says she fears she could suffer a miscarriage while in detention due to inadequate medical care and stress from being away from her three daughters.
In one instance, the ACLU says Solis became light-headed and dizzy while waiting to be transported back to her unit after meeting with her attorney. Solis claims she woke up hours later still in the locked legal visitation room and “had to pound on the door” to get the staff’s attention.
“We are troubled as well by reports of delayed or inconsistent access to appropriate pre-natal vitamins, fainting episodes, a broken ultrasound machine in the medical facility, close exposure to cleaning chemicals, manual labor, and harsh treatment by facility staff. Ms. Solis has reported that a doctor at the facility told her, ‘If you have a miscarriage here, it’s not our fault, and there’s nothing we can do about it,’” the attorney stated.
The ACLU says Solis is not a security or flight risk and doesn’t fall under the terrorist or criminal carve outs for mandatory detention, and should be immediately released for “urgent humanitarian reasons.”
Solis’ attorney noted “she is firmly rooted in the United States,” where she “has lived for most of her life” and the majority of her family members are U.S. citizens – including her husband, children, father and seven siblings.
“She wants nothing more than to come home to her children and to be in a safe environment during the duration of her pregnancy and while she pursues relief from removal,” the attorney wrote.
A change.org petition calling for Solis’ release has over 2,700 signatures.
There are “at least two strong claims” Solis may seek relief from removal, including her claim she faces persecution if removed to Mexico and is eligible for a U-visa as a domestic violence survivor who cooperated with police during an investigation which led to her ex-husband’s deportation.
“As a domestic violence survivor who courageously stood up to her abuser by reporting his crimes, she is precisely the type of non-citizen for whom Congress sought to provide legal status when it created the U-visa,” Vakili wrote.
In an email, ICE spokeswoman Lauren Mack confirmed Solis remains in custody pending a review of her case by an immigration judge. Mack also noted Solis’ previous deportation and re-entry into the United States.