ICE Detaining Pregnant Undocumented Immigrants, Ending Release Policy

Apr 01, 2018, 00:09
ICE Detaining Pregnant Undocumented Immigrants, Ending Release Policy

Women and immigrant advocacy groups, many who have criticized medical care at immigrant detention centers, swiftly condemned the change.

US officials said it was unclear how many women would be affected by the new policy.

The ICE website said all "custody determinations are now made on a case-by-case basis".

"All across our enforcement portfolio, we're no longer exempting any individual from being subject to the law", said Philip Miller, deputy executive associate director of ICE's enforcement and removal operations. 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. 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 new policy, which took effect in December but wasn't announced until Thursday, gives no blanket special consideration to pregnancy, though the agency says each case will be reviewed individually and women in their third trimester will generally be released.

This is an extension of the administration's fight for "extreme vetting" of people attempting to immigrate to the country.

"To mischaracterize this as some kind of wholesale change or draconian change is inaccurate".

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ICE said the change was made to "better align" with an executive order issued by Trump in January a year ago, which broadly enabled immigration enforcement agencies to more strictly follow immigration laws.

The move is the latest effort to scrap immigration policies created in the final two years of Barack Obama's administration.

Groups have been critical of the treatment of immigrants in detention. The examples included instances of detainees' miscarriages in ICE custody. Members of Congress also questioned the Department of Homeland Security about those conditions.

"It's basically a different starting point", said Michelle Brané, the Women's Refugee Commission's director of migrant rights and justice program and a frequent critic of immigration detention.

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

The Trump administration has pushed ICE to expand the use of detention for immigrants subject to deportation, in an effort to cut down on the number allowed to live in the USA as they await court proceedings.

The FAQ also pointed out that detention facilities would "continue to provide onsite prenatal care and education, as well as remote access to specialists for pregnant women who remain in custody".

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