Migration Advocates Embrace Story of ‘Breastfeeding Mom’ Detained by ICE… and It’s Almost Certainly False
ICE officials are denouncing the allegation by CNN, MSNBC and at least two Democrat 2020 candidates, that the agency detained a breastfeeding mother during the August 7 action against chicken processing plants in Mississippi.
When the woman was first arrested, “she was directly asked if she was breastfeeding, she said no,” ICE spokesman Bryan Cox told Breitbart News. “A medical examiner verified she is not lactating.”
“It is not uncommon for allegations to be made about a person in custody or arrested by this agency that are later determined to be not true … Any law enforcement agency will tell you that people commonly make statements that are not correct in an attempt to get released from custody,” Cox told Breitbart News.
The “breastfeeding mom” claim was touted by pro-migration activists even though ICE had already temporarily released 300 of 680 detained illegals to provide care for their children.
The disagreement was spotlighted August 20 by Daniel Horowitz at Conservative Review.
The claim was initially made August 15 by the local newspaper, the Mississippi Clarion Ledger, and it was quickly spread by many pro-migration Twitter acounts, CNN, MSNBC, and candidates Robert O’Rourke and Sen. Kamala Harris.
The mother who is detained right now, who is depressed, as you would be if you were in that same situation, who is in pain, and I think her breasts swollen, unable to pump the milk or to feed her child, and for what? Again? Working in a chicken processing plant, striving in this country, seeking to do better for herself, and her family, for her community and for this, her adopted homeland.
The Clarion Ledger reported the allegation about Maria Domingo-Garcia under the headline, “ICE raid separates 4-month-old baby from breastfeeding mom.” The story continued:
The man clasped the 4-month-old baby girl in his strong, tanned hands as an energetic toddler climbed on his shoulders and hugged his father’s neck.
He placed the nipple of a baby bottle near the infant’s face. She latched on eagerly.
Until a week ago, she had been breastfed by her mother. That abruptly ended when her mother was arrested at Koch Foods in Morton, where she had worked for four years. The mother and hundreds of others are suspected of living and working in the U.S. without permission.
Now, the father is raising three young children on his own. He’s continuing to work to support his family. Complicating things — he’s facing his own deportation proceedings stemming from an earlier arrest, with the next court date set for 2021.
The article provided a very sympathetic portrait of the illegal immigrants but did not offer any attribution for the breastfeeding claim or even any evidence supporting the claim. But the Clarion Ledger article did suggest the assertion was made by the migrants’ lawyers and a pro-migration activist:
The 4-month-old baby’s mother has not come back. She’s currently being held at an ICE detention facility in Jena, Louisiana, said Dalila Reynoso, an advocate with Justice For Our Neighbors who traveled to Mississippi from Texas after news broke of the ICE raids.
Reynoso and an attorney friend are working on the young family’s immigration case. They hope the circumstances — the age of the infant, the breastfeeding and the woman’s lack of a criminal history — could convince immigration officials to let her out on bond quickly.
On the afternoon of August 20, the Clarion Ledger published ICE’s denial of the claim. The headline said: ‘ICE claims mom separated from baby was not breastfeeding. Attorney says she was,’ and it said:
Last week, the Clarion Ledger reported a breastfeeding mother was separated from her 4-month-old baby girl when immigration officials raided food processing plants in Mississippi in search of suspected undocumented workers.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is now disputing the mother was breastfeeding before she was detained.
Monday evening, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Bryan Cox emailed a statement to the Clarion Ledger.
“… All ICE detainees receive medical, dental and mental health intake screening within 12 hours of arriving at each detention facility; that screening includes a woman being asked if she is breast feeding. During her initial medical screening, (the mother) answered no to that question,” the statement said. “Pursuant to subsequent media reports that falsely alleged (she) was being detained despite being a nursing mother, an ICE Health Services Corps nurse practitioner conducted an additional medical examination of (the mother), which verified today she is not lactating.”
But the newspaper’s initial claim was quickly magnified by CNN which also provided a migrant-friendly narrative under the headline: “A breastfeeding mom is still being held in an ICE facility 12 days after being detained, attorneys say”:
Maria Domingo-Garcia left for work 12 days ago, and she hasn’t been home since.
The mother of three has been separated from her 4-month-old daughter — who she still breastfeeds — since being picked up during an ICE raid at Koch Foods in Morton, Mississippi.
Domingo-Garcia was among the 680 undocumented immigrants detained August 7 in raids, the most in the agency’s history, at seven food processing plants across the central part of the state.
She’s being held at a facility in Jena, Louisiana, which is nearly 200 miles from Morton.
When a woman is breastfeeding, her body continues to produce milk that needs to be expressed or it can cause pain and swelling.
Domingo-Garcia’s attorneys, Ray Ybarra Maldonado and Juliana Manzanarez, along with Dalila Reynoso, program director for Justice for Our Neighbors in Texas, have been working with the mother and her family as they navigate her custody and hopeful release.
CNN posted its story on August 19, and attributed the breastfeeding claim to lawyers for the arrested woman, Maria Domingo-Garcia: “A breastfeeding mom is still being held in an ICE facility 12 days after being detained, attorneys say”:
— CNN (@CNN) August 19, 2019
The lawyers rejected ICE’s statement their client was not breastfeeding her child, according to an August 20 reading of CNN’s article:
“ICE is, once again, lying,” said Ybarra Maldonado. “She said nobody’s asked her — not even one time — if she’s been breastfeeding.”
“Can you imagine having a 4-month-old baby and being ripped away from that baby, unsure of who is taking care of her?” he said. “She’s devastated.”
Manzanarez added Domingo-Garcia told her that detention center staff has asked her only if she has a 4-month-old daughter, to which she replied “yes.”
Domingo-Garcia is originally from Guatemala and has lived in the United States for 11 years, Ybarra Maldonado said.
MSNBC also amplified the breastfeeding claim by posting the Clarion Ledger article, and touting the story via Twitter:
“ICE raid separates 4-month-old baby from breastfeeding mom”https://t.co/18KtOfiN0r
— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) August 16, 2019
Sen. Kamala Harris also retweeted the Clarion Ledger story with the comment; “This baby girl needs her mother. The human rights abuses by our own government continue.”
This baby girl needs her mother.
The human rights abuses by our own government continue.
When will it end? https://t.co/e8tRuFBF0M
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) August 18, 2019
The Hill.com posted the claim, saying “ICE defends detaining breastfeeding mom.”
— The Hill (@thehill) August 19, 2019
The Hill’s story was later updated with the headline: “Updated: ICE rejects claims it separated breastfeeding mother from her child.”
The Huffington Post spread the story:
The mother “had this lost look,” an immigrant rights advocate told The Clarion Ledger after a visit. “She doesn’t know what tomorrow will bring.” https://t.co/5hM84zp2EU
— HuffPost Politics (@HuffPostPol) August 18, 2019
The woman’s lawyers declined to return calls from Breitbart News:
Also, he said, the woman is described in the media as a Guatemalan, but has a Mexican passport and was born in Mexico. “She is of Guatemalan descent … she was born in Chiapas, which is the southern state [in Mexico] bordering Guatemala [but] she may be a Guatemalan citizen as well.”
The breastfeeding story was widely circulated on Twitter, including by Juan Escalante, a DACA-amnesty illegal who works for Mark Zuckerberg’s FWD.us lobbying group:
A week ago, the 4-month-old baby had been breastfed by her mother.
Now she’s in her father’s care, who is raising 3 young children WHILE fighting his own deportation. https://t.co/AWL5XU1mTY
— Juan Escalante (@JuanSaaa) August 17, 2019
The claim was pushed by a pro-migration Democrat Rep. Veronica Escobar:
“Why do we have a mother in a detention center with a baby that’s 4 months old and who is breastfeeding?” https://t.co/Cll4qcLr8K
— Rep. Veronica Escobar (@RepEscobar) August 16, 2019
An MSNBC producer with 607,000 Twitter followers also spread the story:
The Mississippi ICE raid separated a 4-month-old baby from her breastfeeding mom, according to the Clarion Ledger. https://t.co/XEWAI4ccsm
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) August 16, 2019