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 WarrenPoll: Sanders leads 2020 Democratic field with 28 percent, followed by Warren and Biden More than 6 in 10 expect Trump to be reelected: poll Sanders has wide leads in two of three battleground states: survey MORE (Mass.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerNew Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announces tumor on kidney, will undergo treatment The Hill's 12:30 Report: Dem anxiety grows ahead of Super Tuesday House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime MORE (N.J.), Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoProgressives hope Nevada offers roadmap for pro-union 2020 victory Kennedy, Markey spar over experience in first Senate primary debate DSCC endorses McGrath in race against McConnell MORE (Nev.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisClyburn: Biden 'suffered' from not doing 'enough' in early debates Sanders is a risk, not a winner House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime MORE (Calif.) and Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinOvernight Energy: EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water | Trump budget calls for slashing funds for climate science centers | House Dems urge banks not to fund drilling in Arctic refuge Democratic senators criticize plan that could expand Arctic oil and gas development Democratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe 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.