Democrats question ICE standards for detaining pregnant women

Democrats question ICE standards for detaining pregnant women
© Greg Nash

Several Senate Democrats are questioning what standards Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) use when determining whether to detain pregnant women in a letter to ICE chief Thomas Homan.

Democratic Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller aftermath: What will House Dems do now? Warren spends big on staff in high-stakes 2020 gamble On The Money: Inside the Mueller report | Cain undeterred in push for Fed seat | Analysis finds modest boost to economy from new NAFTA | White House says deal will give auto sector B boost MORE (Mass.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerButtigieg says he wouldn't be opposed to having Phish play at his inauguration Sanders announces first endorsements in South Carolina Buttigieg to fundraise in DC with major Obama, Clinton bundlers next month: report MORE (N.J.), Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoLife in the minority at the FCC Dem senators call for Trump to restore release for pregnant migrants Jury rejects Harry Reid lawsuit against fitness band maker MORE (Nev.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisFive former Obama ambassadors back Buttigieg Harris: Integrity of US justice system 'took a real blow' with Barr's actions Sanders announces first endorsements in South Carolina MORE (Calif.) and Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDurbin calls Mueller report findings on Trump team 'troubling' Congress opens door to fraught immigration talks McConnell: 'Past time' for immigration-border security deal MORE (Ill.) sent a letter to Homan on Thursday requesting the agency not hold pregnant women in custody except under "extraordinary" circumstances.

The letter follows a decision from ICE last month to treat pregnant women suspected of being undocumented immigrants the same as any other detainees.

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"In light of reports that ICE has failed to provide critical medical care to pregnant women in immigration detention — resulting in miscarriages and other negative health outcomes — this policy change is particularly alarming," the letter reads. 

"This new policy jeopardizes the health and wellbeing of an exceptionally vulnerable group of people — many of whom are fleeing sexual and physical violence, or experience it as they travel to the United States," they wrote.

In the letter, the senators take particular issue with ICE's removal of language directing agents to provide pregnant detainees with timely medical care.

The decision "eliminates specific policies that help ensure pregnant women in immigration detention are timely and properly identified and provided with appropriate care," the senators wrote.

ICE Deputy Executive Associate Director Philip Miller explained in an internal email to agents this month that ICE currently has 35 pregnant women in "mandatory detention."

"In terms of risks to the community, we look at criminal history. 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," said Miller in the email.