In March, activist Alejandra Pablos was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during a routine check-in.
Routine check-ins with ICE are part of life for many people in the United States who are in the process of applying for citizenship, applying for asylum, or waiting on a court date for an immigration status-related issue.
In the past, these check-ins have served mostly as formalities. The person in question will show the required documents, answer questions so that ICE officials know that their case hasn’t changed, and go on their way.
But in the past couple of years, more and more people have been detained, deported, or arrested in the course of a routine check-in with ICE. Many have been detained and deported without being told why, and without having done anything wrong.
Alejandra Pablos is an activist who has led advocacy efforts for reproductive justice and migrant rights. Before her detainment, she worked for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. She also serves as part of We Testify, an organization that advocates against abortion stigma through storytelling.
Pablos’ routine check-in was due to the fact that she had lost her legal permanent resident status after a substance use-related issue. At the time of her detainment, she was in the process of applying for asylum in the United States, citing her fear that she would be in danger as a political activist in Mexico.
Turns out, she was in danger as a political activist in the U.S. too. Activist communities have been speaking out on the fact that ICE seems to be targeting activists in their efforts to detain and deport non-U.S. citizens. These have been named “silent raids”—deportations and detainment’s carried out when people have no way to defend themselves against ICE.
Ultimately, the experience of Pablos and many other people who have been detained and deported by ICE shows that deportation and immigrant rights are reproductive rights issues as well. Immigrant women, more than other populations, are being separated from their children, cut off from reproductive health care and the option to obtain an abortion, and generally stripped of their physical self-determination by ICE and other U.S. government agents.
As reproductive health advocates, we must make sure to include these communities in our efforts to make reproductive health accessible to all.