ICE enforcement keeps immigrant mothers from prenatal care

immigrant mothers, prenatal
© Mikumistock

According to research by Duke University, immigrant mothers are increasingly worried about attending prenatal care appointments due to the possibility of a surprise ICE visit

In the recent past, ICE detention centres were found to be withholding vaccines for common diseases from child migrants, and a doctor was revealed to be giving unconsented hysterectomies to detainees.

Medicaid access was recently found to improve the chances of a mother and child experiencing good health, in an investigation of data in New York. 

The possibility of deportation and the uncertainty of their futures mark women’s health in so many ways. From the obvious harm of forced hysterectomies, to the mental suffering of PTSD and trauma, these individuals are at the precarious mercy of the private sector firms who run these centres.

The health impact of immigration policy also extends beyond the walls of a detention centre, according to new research by Duke University.

What is the 287(g) rule?

The federal 287(g) immigration programme is the rule that lets local police authorities become Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents – whenever they feel like they need to be.

The 287(g) clause was introduced in 2006, in North Carolina.

It further gives police the right to ask about immigration status, detain people, and even begin deportation proceedings if they can.

With traditional ICE teams, their clothing and vehicles often give away that a raid is about to begin. Now local police carry the threat of immigration questioning like a second shadow to their main purpose.

And that shadow hangs heavy in a relatively unexpected place – prenatal care appointments.

Babies are born much smaller than before this policy

Immigrant mothers in North Carolina found that their babies were being born much smaller, by an average of 58.54 grams. This change also saw babies being born too small for the age they were meant to be.

The study is believed to be the first to examine how the 287(g) program affects infant health. With administrative data from 2004 to 2006, researchers examined birth and maternal health outcomes for immigrant mothers residing in Mecklenburg County before and after the 287(g) program was implemented.

They then compared the Mecklenburg data with similar statistics in counties that did not adopt the programs.

Immigrant mothers also used less prenatal care. They did not take many appointments in the first trimester or they missed at least half of their recommended prenatal visits.

“If going to the doctor means you might run into ICE, maybe you don’t go,” said Christina Gibson-Davis, professor of public policy and sociology.

“It wasn’t the intention of the policy, but pregnant women not getting adequate prenatal care is worrying.”

Read the full study here.


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