LatinaLista — Not too long ago, Latina Lista revealed how female undocumented immigrants were being raped along the border as they made their way illegally into the country. Their panties and bras became trophies for the cowards who raped them and were hung on trees as a testament to the vile acts performed on them. The trees have become known as “rape trees.”
Immigrant detention facility
While focus of the news has been on the trees and the creatures who are getting away with preying on vulnerable women, the story doesn’t end with the rapes. Sadly, for too many of these women, it’s bad enough that the rape will stay with them as a haunting memory but some of them will have to be constantly reminded of the rape — through the children who are conceived as a result of the rapes.
In an excellent article in the Texas Observer entitled Access Denied, it was discovered that almost 10 percent of immigrant women in detention custody of ICE are pregnant as a result of being raped.
The vast majority of these women, when given the choice as to whether or not they want the babies, understandably do not. Who would want to be reminded of an act of extreme violence perpetuated against them by a complete stranger?
Yet, the author of the article found that these women were never allowed the option of terminating their pregnancies. In fact, in 2008 and 2009, federal records show that while there were pregnant immigrant women in ICE detention facilities, not one had an abortion.
Unlike the U.S. Bureau of Prisons where 3 percent of the female population is pregnant and those women are given counseling to explore their options as to whether or not they want their babies, and if they don’t are allowed abortions, ICE doesn’t even have counselors on staff to help these women cope with their rape and pregnancies. If the women request counseling then ICE officials contract with outside counseling agencies to provide it.
It’s believed the rationale for not allowing the women to terminate their pregnancies has less to do with any kind of moral conviction but rather the objective of keeping the women ready to deport at a moment’s notice. In fact, ICE policy is to allow abortions, or “elective procedures,” if it is paid for by the woman herself.
By purposely not informing the women means ICE officials are keeping the women on “standby” to deport.
A crucial part of the government’s treatment of pregnant immigrants—one that takes place outside detention facilities—has been scarcely addressed in these studies. Attorneys in South Texas know it well: As their due dates approach, ICE often releases women on probationary status. With nowhere to go and babies on the way, ICE makes arrangements to drop the women off at shelters often run by Catholic charities. Such arrangements vary on a case-by-case basis, Bassett says. “There’s no overall relationship” between ICE and local shelters, she says.
It’s said that ICE does this to get around the thorny issues of detaining U.S. citizens since the children will be U.S. citizens —Â a tie to this country that most of these women would rather not have.
It’s always been known that arrogance, greed and disrespect for international human rights propelled the former administration of the Department of Homeland Security. This is yet another example of a policy in dire need of change today — not maÃ±ana.
We must ask the question: How many more women pregnant by rape stand forgotten behind the bars of federal detention needlessly waiting for a sentence that will forever keep them a prisoner of their worst nightmare?
The answer may be “too many.”