ICE will now detain pregnant immigrants

Saul Bowman
April 1, 2018

The "Identification and Monitoring of Pregnant Detainees" directive points out that "generally, absent extraordinary circumstances" the agency would not detain pregnant immigrants during the third trimester of pregnancy. The examples included instances of detainees' miscarriages in ICE custody.

The Trump administration said Thursday that it ended special considerations to generally release pregnant women charged with being in the United States illegally while their cases wind through immigration court.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the new policy was part of Trump's executive order a year ago directing the agency to sweep up anyone caught in the country illegally, The Washington Post reported. The Obama administration policy urged officers to presume a pregnant woman could be released except for extreme circumstances.

Since then, more than 500 women were taken into custody in the first three months of 2018.

The Daily Beast reports the change is a result of President Donald Trump's executive order for stronger immigration law enforcement.

The directive does give officers flexibility to evaluate each individual case.

Michelle Brané of the Women's Refugee Commission, one of the groups that filed a complaint previous year against the detention of pregnant women, told the Huffington Post the administration can seek other alternatives, like mandatory check-ins or ankle bracelets. Not all pregnant immigrants will be detained, but emphasis will be placed on people whose detention "is necessary to effectuate removal" and others who may be flight risks or a danger to the community. Since December, 506 pregnant women have been detained, Miller told CNN.

The complaint included several anonymized accounts of women whose stories the groups said "illustrate a disturbing trend of ICE officials unjustifiably denying or delaying the release of pregnant women as well as their failure to provide the necessary medical care".

The change in policy was sent by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to Congress on Thursday morning and later announced in a conference call with reporters.

"The Women's Refugee Commission has long documented the risky and unhealthy detention conditions that are especially unsafe and inappropriate for pregnant women", Brané said in a statement.

Calling it an "attack on women and children", Michelle Brané, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at Women's Refugee Commission, said the organization "condems" the move. Two women told HuffPost they lost pregnancies at ICE detention centers past year.

USA officials said it was unclear how many women would be affected by the new policy.

Critics of the change say that ICE detention centers are not equipped to handle the medical needs of pregnant immigrants.

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