According to a new memo signed by acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director Thomas Homan, the Trump administration has announced that it is ending a policy that generally released pregnant women from detention, and will now leave it in the hands of individual ICE officers on a case-by-case basis:
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 last year. That order scrapped the Obama-era prosecutorial discretion policy instructing officers to deprioritize detaining and deporting certain immigrants.
But ICE already detains pregnant women—“ICE detained more than 500 pregnant women in 2016”—and now it wants to detain even more. “Pregnant women I spoke with in ICE custody often didn't get appropriate nourishment, medical care, or prenatal vitamins,” tweeted Cristina Constantini. “Some were even shackled during childbirth, denied breast pumps, and not allowed to hold their babies”:
“This new ICE policy memo confirms our fears that the government is continuing its barbaric policy of detaining pregnant women despite substantial evidence that detention of this particularly vulnerable population has been linked to serious health implications to the mother and unborn child and also constitutes a significant barrier to receiving a meaningful day in court,” said Katie Shepherd, who does legal advocacy for asylum-seeking women at the American Immigration Council.
While “ICE will generally not detain pregnant women during their third trimester,” last year Jacinta Torres suffered a miscarriage about four weeks into her pregnancy while in ICE detention, detailing a slow response when she complained to medical staff until it was too late. Locking up more pregnant women is barbarism, and deadly. And it’s the new policy under the Trump administration.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus issued a statement on ICE’s new policy, saying “it is critical that ICE reverse this unnecessary and cruel policy change immediately”:
“ICE’s policy change toward pregnant women is inhumane and will expose these women to potential harm and undoubtedly lead to more miscarriages and pregnancy complications. This reprehensible policy change follows a disturbing and growing trend by the Trump Administration to detain pregnant women, which has already led to alarming reports of miscarriages in immigration detention due to CBP and ICE’s inadequate medical care.
“Many of these vulnerable pregnant women are escaping gang-related violence and sexual abuse. Instead of ensuring these women have access to the care and support they need, this policy will force pregnant women to be housed in unsafe, highly stressful and controversial detention facilities. Several published reports have described instances of sexual assault, abuse, harassment and even deaths in detention. No expectant mother should be housed in such facilities.”