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 WarrenBiden says he won't legalize marijuana because it may be a 'gateway drug' Democrats seize on report of FedEx's Elizabeth Warren tax bill to slam Trump's tax plan Warren 'fully committed' to 'Medicare for All' MORE (Mass.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBiden says he won't legalize marijuana because it may be a 'gateway drug' New poll catapults Buttigieg to frontrunner position in Iowa Deval Patrick: a short runway, but potential to get airborne MORE (N.J.), Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoHouse and Senate Dems implore McConnell to sign DACA legislation to protect 'Dreamers' Democrats unifying against Joe Kennedy Senate bid Former state senator gets DSCC endorsement in North Carolina Senate race MORE (Nev.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisIf we want to save earth, we need to change how we eat New poll shows four top-tier 2020 candidates in Iowa The Democratic race for president may not sort itself out MORE (Calif.) and Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Democratic senators introduce bill to push ICE to stop 'overuse' of solitary confinement Pentagon watchdog declines to investigate hold on Ukraine aid 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.