US Paves Way to Hold More Pregnant Women in Immigration Jail
01 April 2018, 12:12 | Colleen Roy
The Trump administration on Thursday officially ended a policy of releasing pregnant immigrant detainees from custody.
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 U.S., facilities that are already decried by critics for tough conditions".
Administration officials said new rules on pregnant women aligned with the president's executive orders past year for heightened immigration enforcement.
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.
Not detaining a pregnant woman doesn't mean she won't have to go through the immigration legal process.
The move is the latest effort to scrap immigration policies created in the final two years of Barack Obama's administration. "ICE detention facilities will continue to provide onsite prenatal care and education, as well as remote access to specialists for pregnant women who remain in custody". And as of March 20, there were 35 pregnant women in ICE's custody. Not all pregnant immigrants will be detained, but emphasis will be placed on people whose detention "is necessary to effectuate removal" and others who may be flight risks or a danger to the community.
Since at least 2011, ICE had implemented a policy that generally favored releasing pregnant women from detention. The old policy stated that pregnant women were generally not detained, unless it was mandatory by law or warranted under "extraordinary circumstances".
An official with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in San Francisco apologized for posting an image on social media that drew criticism from a Muslim civil rights group. "Just like there are men who commit heinous acts violent acts [sic], so too have we had women in custody that commit heinous acts", Miller told reporters on Thursday, according to Reuters. The policy was first finalized in December, officials said.
"It's basically a different starting point", said Michelle Brané, the Women's Refugee Commission's director of migrant rights and justice program and a frequent critic of immigration detention. The complaint alleged that ICE was failing to abide by its own policy against detaining pregnant women and that the women were not being given adequate care.
Groups have been critical of the treatment of immigrants in detention.
The Trump administration has pushed ICE to expand the use of detention for immigrants subject to deportation, in an effort to cut down on the number allowed to live in the USA as they await court proceedings.
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