ICE to Detain Pregnant Women After President Trump Axes Exemption Policy

02 April 2018, 10:09 | Kristine Mills

Provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Immigrants who are caught trying to cross the border illegally already are required to be in detention - although once they pass a threshold test for asylum claims, the government can choose to release them.

The announcement, made in a memo written by Homan last December but not revealed until Thursday, was condemned by immigrant rights advocates.

Through its spokesperson, Danielle Bennet, ICE informed the media that the agency "will complete a case-by-case custody determination taking any special factors into account". "In addition, ICE ensures access to comprehensive counseling and assistance, postpartum follow up, and in certain cases, abortion services".

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

ICE said the change was made to "better align" with an executive order issued by Trump in January past year, which broadly enabled immigration enforcement agencies to more strictly follow immigration laws. "Just as there are men who commit violent acts, heinous acts, so too have we had women in custody who have been convicted of committing heinous, violent acts". Between October 2016 and September 2017, a total of 525 pregnant detainees were taken into ICE custody, the Los Angeles Times reported, with 33 still detained by late September. "We're aligning this policy, as all of our policies, with executive orders from the President". One hundred seventy-nine people have died in ICE detention since 2003.

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. A coalition of civil rights, pro-immigrant and women's groups have also raised concerns about medical services for pregnant immigrants and a number of miscarriages in custody. Detainees also said officers punished them with solitary confinement after they asked for medical attention.

Miller said there are 35 pregnant women in ICE custody today, all of them now subject to mandatory detention, despite the fact that some of them may be pregnant because of rape and assault, Reuters reported.

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The change in policy could pave the way for more pregnant women to be held in detention facilities while they await lengthy court proceedings about whether they can stay in the U.S., facilities that are already decried by critics for tough conditions.

"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.

Over the past year or so, several horror stories from pregnant women held in detention have surfaced.

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.

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

Not detaining a pregnant woman doesn't mean she won't have to go through the immigration legal process. She repeatedly notified detention officers that she was bleeding and in intense pain, but her requests were ignored, and she found out later from doctors at the detention center that she had lost the baby. "I wanted to die".

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