Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is disputing a story reported by CNN on Monday about a nursing mother who was separated from her baby when she was apprehended in an ICE raid earlier this month.
CNN told the story of Maria Domingo-Garcia, a mother of three of who was among the 680 illegal aliens apprehended by ICE while working at Koch Foods in Morton, Mississippi. Domingo-Garcia is currently being held in a facility in Jena, Louisiana.
The article focused on Domingo-Garcia’s separation from her four-month-old daughter, and the pain of not being able to breastfeed anymore. CNN spoke to Domingo-Garcia’s attorneys, Juliana Manzanarez and Ybarra Maldonado, both whom claimed that she was still breastfeeding her baby at the time of her arrest.
“She is still really depressed. She is in a lot of pain because of not being able to pump or breastfeed,” Manzanarez said after visiting Domingo-Garcia on Saturday.
An ICE representative however told CNN that Domingo-Garcia answered “no” when asked whether she was breastfeeding upon arrival at an ICE facility.
But her lawyers accused ICE of lying. “ICE is, once again, lying,” Maldonado said. “She said nobody’s asked her — not even one time — if she’s been breastfeeding.”
In a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation, ICE insisted that Domingo-Garcia did tell them she was not breastfeeding, and revealed that a subsequent medical examination “found that she was not even lactating.”
“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, Ms. Domingo-Garcia answered no to that question,” said ICE spokesman Bryan Cox.
“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 she is not lactating,” Cox continued.
CNN also misidentified Domingo-Garcia’s nationality, according to ICE. The article describes her as being “originally from Guatemala,” but ICE identified her as a Mexican national living unlawfully in the U.S.
CNN posted another story Tuesday shortly after the Daily Caller reported on the medical evidence refuting their report.
“Immigration officials doubled down Tuesday on their assertion that a mother arrested in the Mississippi raids earlier this month is not breastfeeding,” CNN reported.
Ybarra Maldonado said neither he nor any lawyer from his firm was present for the medical exam ICE says it conducted. The first he learned of it was when CNN called seeking comment. ICE never reached out to him before releasing the result of the exam, he said.
“I don’t know why they’re going through great lengths to say she’s a liar instead of releasing her,” the lawyer said. “If during a test she didn’t produce milk, perhaps it’s because she’s been detained for twelve days and going through a horrible situation.”
However, if she was still “in a lot of pain because of not being able to pump or breastfeed” as he said she was on Saturday, the nurse practitioner would have picked up on that.
CNN’s entire story, as the Daily Caller suggested, seems to have been based on the claims of the woman’s immigration lawyers.
It’s not entirely clear if CNN relied entirely on claims made by Domingo-Garcia’s attorneys. A CNN spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment from the DCNF.
ICE meanwhile painted the CNN report as fake news: “Any suggestion that ICE does not give significant consideration to humanitarian factors when making arrest and custody determinations would be a patently false claim,” the agency told the DCNF.