ICE will end its practice of automatically releasing pregnant immigrant detainees

ICE said Thursday that pregnant women are no longer automatically released as a matter of immigration enforcement policy, a reversal by President Donald Trump's administration from Obama-era measures.

The policy change directs officers to keep more pregnant women in custody while providing them with medical attention, according to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement directive finalized in December.

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 document explains that "(the organizations) are gravely concerned with the agency's failure to abide by its own policy against detaining pregnant women, the detention conditions that have been reported by pregnant women in various detention facilities across the country and the lack of quality medical care provided to women who are pregnant or have suffered miscarriages while in custody".

"This new policy further exposes the cruelty of Trump's detention and deportation force by endangering the lives of pregnant immigrant women", said Victoria Lopez, senior staff counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in a statement.

The changes, which will apply to pregnant women seeking asylum, bring ICE policy closer in line with an executive order signed by President Donald Trump a week after taking office previous year. The old policy stated that pregnant women were generally not detained, unless it was mandatory by law or warranted under "extraordinary circumstances".

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.

Since at least 2011, ICE had implemented a policy that generally favored releasing pregnant women from detention.

Immigrants' rights advocates have said it is unsafe to women and their unborn children to hold them in custody. "To miscategorize this as some wholesale change or some kind of draconian act is really just hyperbole", Miller said, according to the Huffington Post.

According to CNN, this change in detention policy "could pave the way for more pregnant women to be held in detention facilities while they await lengthy judicial proceedings about whether they can stay in the U.S., facilities that are already decried by critics for tough conditions". "We're aligning this policy, as we have with all of our policies, with the direction from the president".

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.

There are now 35 pregnant women in custody, according to Miller.

Groups have been critical of the treatment of immigrants in detention.

  • Stacy Allen