U.S. immigration officials have implemented a new policy to show greater consideration for breast-feeding mothers, days after authorities arrested a Honduran woman in Ohio on an immigration violation and separated her from her crying baby.
Sayda Umanzor, 27, admitted to being in the United States illegally when sheriff's deputies and federal agents knocked on the door of a house in Conneaut, Ohio, on Oct. 26.
Umanzor was breast-feeding her 9-month-old daughter, Brittany, at the time, and the baby cried as her parents were led away.
"It was like a piece of me was torn away," Umanzor said Thursday, speaking through an interpreter.
The baby cried incessantly over the next several days as she went without breast milk and Umanzor suffered soreness from engorged breasts.
Greg Palmore, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, said the agency approved Wednesday a new policy to address the needs of breast-feeding mothers.
"It basically ensures that you take humanitarian issues involving nursing moms into consideration," he said Friday. "It also ensures we make contact with state social service agencies to address caregiver issues."
In Umanzor's case, the first jail where she was held did not know it had a nursing mother until Monday, when Lucia Stone, a Spanish-speaking representative of the La Leche League of Ohio, alerted them, said jail commander William Schultz.
Schultz said jail officials then accepted a breast pump and tried to work with local Spanish-speaking mothers to get milk to the baby, but the two sides failed to connect, and the milk had to be thrown out.
Umanzor was transferred to a county jail in Tiffin, Ohio, before immigration lawyer David Leopold secured her release Tuesday night. Leopold argued it was inhumane to hold a nursing mother and unnecessary to jail someone who the ICE knew how to find.
Umanzor was permitted to rejoin her children and was fitted with an ankle bracelet that tracks her whereabouts. She is expected to be deported soon.
Umanzor's husband, Marcus Antonio Bejarano, also an illegal immigrant from Honduras, was taken into custody. A 5-year-old son, David, also has been ordered deported. The couple's 9-month-old baby and a 3-year-old daughter, Alexandra, are U.S. citizens.
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