Immigration and Customs Enforcement has acknowledged a new policy, implemented late last year, that allows for the increased detainment of pregnant women.
The agency confirmed the change in an email to TPM Thursday. It reverses ICE’s previous policy of releasing of pregnant women from custody “absent extraordinary circumstances.”
“To better align with the President’s Executive Order, ICE has ended the presumption of release for all pregnant detainees,” ICE spokesperson Danielle Bennet told TPM in an email. “Instead, as with all detainees except those in cases of mandatory detention, ICE will complete a case-by-case custody determination taking any special factors into account.”
Bennet said the new policy meant that “pregnant aliens” would be detained if their detention “is necessary to effectuate removal” or if they are deemed “a flight risk or [a] danger to the community.”
“Generally,” she said, “absent extraordinary circumstances, ICE will not detain a pregnant alien during the third trimester of pregnancy.”
An ICE fact sheet says the change comes as a result of one of President Donald Trump’s earliest executive orders, on “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” The same order established a hotline explicitly for the victims of crimes committed by undocumented people, and said the Justice Department should attempt to defund so-called sanctuary cities of certain federal funds, among other directives.
In 2016, Thomas Homan, now the acting director of ICE and then the executive associate director, issued in a memo for agency staff that said “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 last year that ICE wasn’t following its own policy — nor independent medical standards — for pregnant women.
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 examples included instances of detainees’ miscarriages in ICE custody.
H/t Daily Beast.