ACLU Forces ICE to Release Pregnant Detainee

SAN DIEGO (CN) — A pregnant detainee at an immigration prison near San Diego, jailed in violation of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s own policies, was released this week, the day after the ACLU sent a demand letter.

Maria Solis was released from the Otay Mesa Detention Facility on Tuesday night after being held for more than a month since she was arrested by ICE agents on Aug. 1. She was released one day after the ACLU sent ICE a letter demanding her release, according to the ACLU.

Solis, a longtime resident of the north coastal San Diego community of Oceanside, had asked to be released, citing memos from former Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson and acting ICE director Thomas Homan, which directed immigration officials not to detain pregnant women “absent extraordinary circumstances or requirement of mandatory detention.”

But ICE officials gave no reason for why they kept Solis in jail, merely denying her request to be released in a two-sentence letter on Aug. 31.

Solis has a history of complicated pregnancies and has given birth to premature children. She was so concerned about her pregnancy and complications that she asked to be deported to Mexico during an immigration hearing Tuesday, rather than stay in jail, her attorney Leah Chavarria said in an interview.

“She was dealing with competing fears and was stressed out for the last few weeks,” Chavarria said. She said Solis met other women at the immigration jail who had suffered mischarges while detained, and Solis herself experienced contractions and other complications.

Solis’s deportation order had been signed when ICE contacted Chavarria and said Solis would be granted supervised release.

Chavarria said ICE gave her “absolutely no reason” why they decided to release Solis after they’d previously denied her request, but said the Department of Homeland Security allowed it, pending a decision on her U-visa application.

Solis, a domestic violence survivor who fears persecution if she is deported back to Mexico, applied for the special visa in August. The U-visa is available for victims who cooperate with law enforcement investigations.

But Chavarria said there is a backlog of U-visas and the government is now processing applications from August 2014. She said the process can take years, and that while Solis is on supervised release, and must make periodic check-ins with ICE, “if ICE decides to change their mind and deport her, they can.”

“I don’t feel Maria should have been detained at all. They could have arrested her, determined her eligibility for release and released her on order of supervision. In the end they made the right decision by releasing her, but it was untimely,” Chavarria said.

ICE spokeswoman Lauren Mack declined to comment.

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