ICE denies claims it separated breastfeeding mom from child; migrant faces separate fraud charges
A migrant woman, who federal immigration officials say falsely claimed ICE separated her from her newborn despite saying she was breastfeeding, was indicted this week on unrelated federal fraud charges stemming from the use of another person’s Social Security number, reports said.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) rejected the claims of the woman, identified as Maria Domingo-Garcia, affirming that she responded "no" when asked during an initial medical exam if she was breastfeeding. A follow-up exam conducted this week also revealed the woman is not lactating, the agency said.
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News outlets initially reported Domingo-Garcia was breastfeeding her 4-month-old daughter every night before she was detained Aug. 7 in an ICE raid on food processing plants in Morton, Miss. She was one of 680 individuals arrested.
ICE spokesman Bryan Cox told The Hill on Tuesday that his agency did not learn until media reports emerged about a week after the raid that Domingo-Garcia claimed agents separated her from her newborn.
A nurse practitioner at the Jena, La., ICE facility where Domingo-Garcia was being detained later conducted a follow-up exam that ruled the mother was not lactating, Cox said.
"All ICE detainees receive medical, dental and mental health intake screening within 12 hours of arriving at each detention facility. The screening includes a woman being asked if she is breast feeding. During her initial medical screening, Ms. Domingo-Garcia answered no to that question," Cox said in a statement to The Hill.
“Pursuant to subsequent media reports that falsely alleged Ms. Domingo-Garcia was being detained despite being a nursing mother, an ICE Health Services Corps nurse practitioner conducted an additional medical examination of Ms. Domingo-Garcia, which verified today she is not lactating,” Cox added.
Domingo-Garcia’s attorneys told CNN they were not notified of the second exam until after its results were released by the agency and have not been provided details of how the exam was conducted.
It was unclear if Domingo-Garcia could have stopped lactating after being detained or if her initial claims that she was breastfeeding were false.
Medical experts told CNN that the weaning process usually takes several weeks, but could take up to six months in extreme cases. Several factors can contribute to how quickly a new mother can stop lactating, including how long a woman has been breastfeeding, how frequently she breastfeeds, how often she uses formula, stress, lack of sleep and medication, they said.
Domingo-Garcia was indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday on two felony counts of fraud. She allegedly used someone else’s security card to prove she could legally work in the U.S. in September 2017. The second count stemmed from the use of another person's S.S. number to gain something of value, according to court documents.
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She will be handed over to U.S. Marshals following the indictment. It is unclear at this time if she will be deported.
Domingo-Garcia was born in Mexico and had been living in the U.S. for more than a decade at the time of the raid, CNN reported. Other outlets, including The Hill, reported Domingo-Garcia is Guatemalan. She is a wife to man who is also undocumented and the mother to two sons aged 3 and 10, in addition to her daughter.