Despite a department policy discouraging the prolonged detainment of pregnant women, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has routinely arrested them since President Trump took office and commenced his assault on immigration. The continued detention of pregnant women prompted a coalition of several legal advocacy groups to file a complaint with the Department of Homeland security on Tuesday.
As of mid-September, there were 33 pregnant women who were held in ICE detention centers across the country, The Center for Investigative Reporting noted. Between January and April of this year, ICE detained 292 pregnant women—35% more women than it had in the same time period last year.
Thomas Homan, who was the highest-ranking official at ICE under President Obama (and is now acting director under Trump), signed a memo in August of 2016 that instructed ICE officers to avoid detaining pregnant women for long periods of time. “Absent extraordinary circumstances or the requirement of mandatory detention, pregnant women will generally not be detained by ICE,” the memo read.
Pregnant women who were detained by ICE have previously been released with ankle-monitoring devices after a day. But Trump’s anti-immigrant crusade appears to have superseded that policy. Why would the detention of pregnant women be a problem to an administration that wants to deport 800,000 people from the U.S because they were brought here from an other country as children?
While an ICE spokesperson told KUOW that its policy on detaining pregnant woman had remain unchanged, advocacy groups sought to prove otherwise. In a letter to DHS, the ACLU, American Immigration Council, the Women’s Refugee Commission, and the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies urged ICE to abide by its own policy. At the center of the complaint are nine formerly detained pregnant women, whom the coalition claimed weren’t given adequate medical care in ICE custody.
“This issue is of immediate concern given the administration’s executive orders directing ICE to dramatically increase immigration enforcement actions and detentions as well as overall detention capacity,” the letter read. “These broad enforcement directives raise serious questions about the future of ICE policies on the detention of pregnant women and the agency’s ability to properly provide medical care while pregnant women are in its custody.”