ICE: Pregnant Women No Longer Automatically Released

Immigration and Customs Enforcement

"This new ICE policy memo confirms our fears that the government is continuing its barbaric policy of detaining pregnant women despite substantial evidence that detention of this particularly vulnerable population has been linked to serious health implications to the mother and unborn child and also constitutes a significant barrier to receiving a meaningful day in court", Katie Shepherd, a legal advocate for asylum-seeking women at the American Immigration Council, told the publication. The only stipulation is all pregnant women in custody must be logged and given the necessary prenatal medical care.

The new ICE policy - which ends "the presumption of release" - reverses the agency's previous position from August 2016 to release pregnant women unless their detention was mandatory or when "extraordinary circumstances" warranted detention.

Philip Miller, ICE's deputy executive director, told CNN that 506 women have been detained since December.

This will imply, in Bennet's words, that "pregnant aliens would be detained if their detention is necessary to effectuate removal or if they are deemed a flight risk or danger to the community".

Through its spokesperson, Danielle Bennet, ICE informed the media that the agency "will complete a case-by-case custody determination taking any special factors into account". The old policy stated that pregnant women were generally not detained, unless it was mandatory by law or warranted under "extraordinary circumstances".

Since 2011, ICE had allowed the release of pregnant women from detention centers, the Huffington Post recalls and provided some exemptions for security threats.

According to CNN, this change in detention policy "could pave the way for more pregnant women to be held in detention facilities while they await lengthy judicial proceedings about whether they can stay in the United States, facilities that are already decried by critics for tough conditions". "We're aligning this policy, as all of our policies, with executive orders from the President".

ICE included Dr. Ada Rivera, the director of medical services for the agency, on the call to explain the services that will be provided for women in custody. Humans rights groups have argued that these kinds of policies infringe on free speech rights.

She was one of ten women whose experiences were documented in a complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union with the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Civil Rights and Office of the Inspector General in September a year ago, describing poor medical treatment for women who were detained while pregnant or had recently suffered miscarriages.

"The Women's Refugee Commission has long documented the unsafe and unhealthy detention conditions that are especially risky and inappropriate for pregnant women", Brané said in a statement.

Groups have been critical of the treatment of immigrants in detention.

There are now 35 pregnant women in custody, according to Miller.

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