Under a new directive that reverses former President Donald Trump
's harsh policies, Immigration
and Customs Enforcement will no longer detain most immigrants who are pregnant, nursing, or have given birth in the last year.
According to the Washington Post
, as of Thursday, there were 13 pregnant women
custody who are now being considered for release.
The Hill was the first to report on President Joe Biden
's administration's memo containing the new guidance on Friday.
During Trump's crackdown on undocumented immigrants
, pregnant women were not given a presumption of release, and Trump reversed a Barack Obama-era directive requiring ICE not to detain pregnant women unless "extraordinary circumstances or the requirement of mandatory detention" existed.
The Biden policy goes even further than the Obama policy by including people
who are pregnant or nursing within a year.
According to The Hill, the new memo from ICE acting director Tae Johnson to officers states
that “[g]enerally ICE should not detain, arrest
, or take into custody for an administrative violation of the immigration laws individuals known to be pregnant, postpartum, or nursing unless release is prohibited by law or exceptional circumstances exist.”
ICE has a long and troubling history
of alleged mistreatment of pregnant detainees. Some have told lawyers that they were denied timely treatment after having a miscarriage
. The number of women who miscarried in ICE custody nearly doubled under Trump, according to the Daily Beast in 2019. Women in detention and doctors have also reported that women have been shackled during pregnancy
ICE officers must obtain permission from a superior to request detention of a pregnant or nursing immigrant, according to Johnson's new memo, which also directs the agency to collect and track data on pregnancy among detainees.
Pregnancies are routinely tested on women who enter ICE custody.
“ICE is committed to protecting the integrity of our immigration system as well as the health
and safety of pregnant, postpartum, and nursing individuals,” Johnson said in a statement, according to the Post. “Given the unique needs of this population, we will not detain individuals known to be pregnant, postpartum, or nursing unless release is prohibited by law or exceptional circumstances envelop them.”