New Directive Allows ICE Officers to Arrest Pregnant Illegal Immigrants

"ICE detention facilities will continue to provide onsite prenatal care and education, as well as remote access to specialists for pregnant women who remain in custody".

The policy shift follows a December 2017 directive from acting ICE Director Thomas Homan which ordered the change amid President Donald Trump's hardline approach to undocumented immigration. 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.

The ICE website said all "custody determinations are now made on a case-by-case basis". It also said it will not detain pregnant women during their third trimester "absent extraordinary circumstances".

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the new policy was part of Trump's executive order past year directing the agency to sweep up anyone caught in the country illegally, The Washington Post reported. Miller also said that there were 35 pregnant women in ICE custody on March 20, the most recent date for which the agency had data.

"To miscategorize this as some wholesale change or some kind of draconian act is really just hyperbole", Miller said.

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. "We're aligning this policy, as all of our policies, with executive orders from the President".

ICE has come under previous criticism for its tough-nosed approach to immigration enforcement under Trump's direction, particularly its decision to separate family members in custody.

Last September before this current directive took effect, ten women - including one woman who had a miscarriage - filed a complaint against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security alleging that immigration officials failed to enforce its old policies on the detention and treatment of pregnant women.

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

Philip Miller, ICE deputy executive associate director, told reporters on Thursday that these pregnant immigrants will be detained on the grounds that ICE believes they could be a threat to the public.

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". A Salvadoran rape survivor said she was held at Houston's Joe Corley Detention Center for six months after she found out she was pregnant and requested her release.

Such claims are "ludicrous", said Katie Shepherd, a lawyer with the American Immigration Council.

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

  • Angelo Rivera