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 WarrenThe Memo: Trump ratchets up Twitter turmoil Hillicon Valley: Twitter flags Trump tweet for 'glorifying violence' | Cruz calls for criminal investigation into Twitter over alleged sanctions violations | Senators urge FTC to investigate TikTok child privacy issues Warren condemns 'horrific' Trump tweet on Minneapolis protests, other senators chime in MORE (Mass.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerWarren condemns 'horrific' Trump tweet on Minneapolis protests, other senators chime in Senate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers Senators ask DeVos to adjust FAFSA form due to the coronavirus pandemic MORE (N.J.), Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoThe Hill's Campaign Report: Minneapolis protests rock the nation Cortez Masto says she's not interested in being Biden VP The Memo: Activists press Biden on VP choice MORE (Nev.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisThe Memo: Trump ratchets up Twitter turmoil Biden: 'More than one African American woman' being considered for VP Klobuchar on defense as Floyd death puts spotlight on record MORE (Calif.) and Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinFrustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  Senate Democrat introduces bill to protect food supply Democratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight 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.