Trump administration to hold more pregnant women in ICE detention


According to the new directive, immigration officers will no longer default to trying to release pregnant women who fall into immigration custody, either because they are undocumented or otherwise subject to deportation.

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".

A previous policy set up by ICE Director Thomas Homan stated: "absent extraordinary circumstances or the requirement of mandatory detention, pregnant women will generally not be detained by ICE".

HuffPost noted Thursday that several prominent immigrant and refugee advocacy groups and the ACLU complained late a year ago that ICE wasn't following its own policy - nor independent medical standards - for pregnant women.

Under the new rules, pregnant women will now be assessed on a case-by-case basis to determine whether they will be kept in custody or released.

"Generally, absent extraordinary circumstances, ICE will not detain a pregnant alien during the third trimester of pregnancy", ICE said in a statement.

But after Trump issued an executive order in January 2017 that required immigration officers to target all undocumented immigrants, the agency chose to change the way it dealt with pregnant women. This reverses an Obama-era directive that allowed for the automatic release of pregnant immigrants who were placed in detention.

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

Today, ICE released a policy revoking guidance limiting the detention of pregnant women.

"To miscategorize this as some wholesale change, or some kind of draconian act is really hyperbole", he told reporters on a conference call. "We're aligning this policy, as we have with all of our policies, with the direction from the president".

Miller downplayed the impact of the change, saying it was an attempt to make clear the administration's policy that no immigrants are exempt from enforcement.

In the face of possible accusations of "abuse of human rights", and as reported by Think Progress, an ICE official shared an appending of FAQ claiming that "the agency exercises its civil detention authority consistent with the law, and all detainees receive necessary and appropriate health services, food, and care".

When a pregnant immigrant is detained, ICE will notify the Enforcement and Removal Operations, Homeland Security Investigations, Field Office Directors, and Special Agents in Charge. "Suddenly, starting in July or August, we started to hear of more and more cases [of pregnant women in detention]", Katharina Obser of the Women's Refugee Commission, a national organization, told the Texas Observer last October.

Not detaining a pregnant woman doesn't mean she won't have to go through the immigration legal process.