ICE: Trump's Immigration Policy Means We'll Jail More Pregnant Women

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency will end its practice of automatically releasing pregnant immigrant detainees to "better align" with President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration, according to official documents sent Thursday to Congress and reviewed by ThinkProgress. Obama's administration ordered in an August 2016 memo that, "absent extraordinary circumstances or the requirement of mandatory detention", pregnant women would generally be released from ICE custody.

Since then, more than 500 women were taken into custody in the first three months of 2018.

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 a year ago.

The directive does give officers flexibility to evaluate each individual case.

Philip Miller, ICE's deputy executive director, told CNN that 506 women have been detained since December.

Since 2011, ICE had allowed the release of pregnant women from detention centers, the Huffington Post recalls and provided some exemptions for security threats.

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Immigrants' rights advocates have said it is risky to women and their unborn children to hold them in custody. That order scrapped the Obama-era prosecutorial discretion policy instructing officers to deprioritize detaining and deporting certain immigrants. In November, Broadly detailed the experiences of 10 women who were in detention while pregnant, including one high-risk pregnancy that ended in a miscarriage, despite the agency's previous policy. ICE will generally not detain pregnant women during their third trimester.

An official with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in San Francisco apologized for posting an image on social media that drew criticism from a Muslim civil rights group.

"Being in detention is not an appropriate setting for not just a pregnant woman, but a pregnant woman who may or may not be pregnant as a result of a significant trauma like that", she said.

She said it is impossible to know for sure whether the number of pregnant detainees will go up, but "it's pretty clear that the intent is to reduce the number of pregnant women who are released".

Calling it an "attack on women and children", Michelle Brané, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at Women's Refugee Commission, said the organization "condems" the move. She was one of ten women whose experiences were documented in a complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union with the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Civil Rights and Office of the Inspector General in September a year ago, describing poor medical treatment for women who were detained while pregnant or had recently suffered miscarriages.


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