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Groups Want Immigration Officials To Stop Detaining Pregnant Women

The Otay Mesa Immigration and Customs Enforcement Detention Center, May 18th,...

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Above: The Otay Mesa Immigration and Customs Enforcement Detention Center, May 18th, 2015

More than 250 organizations sent a letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Wednesday asking the agency to reverse a policy change that makes it easier to detain pregnant women.

The letter was signed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Immigration Council and other civil, human rights and healthcare organizations.

"We urge ICE to discontinue its policy of detaining pregnant individuals, who should be able to access the critical healthcare services they need and instead release them to continue their cases outside of detention," the letter said.

The letter cited cases of women who have suffered miscarriages and other health problems due to a lack of adequate and timely treatment while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Last fall, organizations filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security for its practice of detaining pregnant women.

Just two years ago, immigration officials decided that pregnant women should not be kept in immigration detention except under “extraordinary” circumstances. But now, ICE says it will not give pregnant women that kind of special treatment except if they are in their third trimester.

Instead, officials plan to make "case-by-case" custody determinations. The agency issued the following statement:

“To better align with the President’s Executive Order, ICE has ended the presumption of release for all pregnant detainees ... Generally, absent extraordinary circumstances, ICE will not detain a pregnant alien during the third trimester of pregnancy. 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.”

Victoria Lopez, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, noted that the new policy memo also removed reporting requirements for the treatment of pregnant women.

“The policy change has been really just another cruel inhumane turn by this administration and this agency ... putting women at completely unnecessary risk," she said.

More than 250 organizations sent a letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Wednesday asking the agency to reverse a policy change that makes it easier to detain pregnant women.

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