ICE will detain pregnant women, ending previous policy
The Trump administration is ending a policy that exempted pregnant women from immigration detention, according to internal documents reviewed by The Hill.
Under the new policy, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers will treat pregnant detainees as they would any other, save for providing the necessary medical care and keeping a record of pregnant women in custody.
The change was set in place by an internal directive issued in December by ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan, entitled “Identification and Monitoring of Pregnant Detainees.”
It supersedes a similar directive, issued by Homan in 2016, which said “absent extraordinary circumstances or the requirement of mandatory detention, pregnant women will generally not be detained by ICE.”
That language, borrowed from a 2016 memo written by then-Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, is absent from the most recent directive.
The Hill obtained an internal ICE email that explains the new policy, which went into effect Thursday.
Philip Miller, a Deputy Exec Associate Director at ICE, explained that the period between Homan’s directive and enactment of the policy was allowed so the agency could have the proper training and infrastructure in place to handle pregnant women.
The email says that detention of pregnant women will serve to “better align with the President’s Executive Order.”
Trump signed an executive order in January 2017, tightening the way ICE conducts immigration operations and increasing the universe of immigrants deemed a priority for removal.
The internal email, presented as a question and answer sheet, says ICE will complete a “case-by-case custody determination taking any special factors into account” when processing pregnant detainees.
It also says that, “absent extraordinary circumstances, ICE will not detain a pregnant alien during the third trimester of pregnancy.”
Miller said most detentions are a precursor to removal, and “because [women with late-term pregnancies] are not cleared for flight, therefore it would be inappropriate to use our detention ability for someone we cannot remove.”
He added that other immigrants held either presented a danger to society or an elevated flight risk.
“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.
Miller said 35 pregnant women are currently under ICE custody, all of whom “are subject to mandatory detention.”
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) called the policy change “cruel and unnecessary” and called for its immediate reversal.
“ICE’s policy change toward pregnant women is inhumane and will expose these women to potential harm and undoubtedly lead to more miscarriages and pregnancy complications,” said Lujan Grisham. “This reprehensible policy change follows a disturbing and growing trend by the Trump Administration to detain pregnant women, which has already led to alarming reports of miscarriages in immigration detention due to CBP and ICE’s inadequate medical care.”
ICE has been the target of severe criticism from immigrant rights and religious groups, particularly when officers have separated immigrant families in detention.
Homan — an Obama-era holdover — has taken a hard line against undocumented immigrants, saying they “should be afraid.”
This story was updated at 5:35 p.m.