One of the immigrants rounded up by ICE agents in Mississippi earlier this month was a mother who was still breastfeeding her four-month-old baby.
Now, the baby’s father isn’t sure how the sudden end to the baby’s breastfeeding will affect her growth. Dalila Reynoso, an immigrants’ rights advocate with the Texas-based group Justice For Our Neighbors, is working with an attorney on the mother’s case. They hope to release her from custody in Jena, Louisiana and reunite her with her husband and her three children, especially considering that the woman has no prior criminal history and has an infant child who is currently breastfeeding. Because all three children were born in the U.S., they’re all legal U.S. citizens.
“Why do we have a mother in a detention center with a baby that’s 4 months old and who is breastfeeding?” Reynosa said of the mother’s case.
According to parenting site VeryWellFamily, sudden weaning off of breastfeeding can sometimes come with debilitating physical and emotional side effects for both the child and the mother.
“[G]radual weaning is often less traumatic for children. Breastfeeding provides nutrition, but more than that it’s a source of comfort and security. So, while some children can give up breastfeeding without a fuss, others will have a much harder time especially when it happens too quickly.”
The father spoke to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger on condition of anonymity. Through a translator, he said he came to the U.S. 14 years ago from Guatemala looking for work, as there was little opportunity in his birth country. According to the Clarion-Ledger, the father has a family friend look after the children — ages 11 and 3, along with the infant — while he’s away at work. However, he said the 11-year-old asks every day about his mother, and the only thing he can tell him is that he has no control over when his mother will come home.
“(I hope) all the adventures (I) have to face coming from Guatemala to here, they’re not in vain,” the father said through his translator, Rev. Roberto Mena of St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Forest, Mississippi. “It’s important that (we) continue with the American dream even though all of this happened with (us) now.”
CNN reported Friday that even though the ICE raids in Mississippi happened more than a week ago, some children are still without a parent. The raids at seven food processing plants in Mississippi resulted in nearly 700 arrests, though 300 have since been released on “humanitarian grounds.”
ICE spokesman Bryan Cox defended the arrests, saying that both immigrants and U.S. citizens are routinely separated from their children due to the criminal justice system.
“There are countless children in Mississippi who have a parent currently incarcerated due to their parent being arrested. The reality is, adults with children are arrested by law enforcement agencies in Mississippi every day — and every arrest by any law enforcement agency, by definition, ‘separates’ a person from their family,” Cox said.
(Featured image: UNICEF Ukraine/Wikimedia Commons)
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.