U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has changed its policy regarding pregnant women and will now only release them at the determination of an immigration agent, according to internal memos obtained by the Daily Beast.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the new policy was part of Trump's executive order past year directing the agency to sweep up anyone caught in the country illegally, The Washington Post reported.
The new policy, which took effect in December but wasn't announced until Thursday, gives no blanket special consideration to pregnancy, though the agency says each case will be reviewed individually and women in their third trimester will generally be released.
But after Trump issued an executive order in January 2017 that required immigration officers to target all undocumented immigrants, the agency made a decision to change the way it dealt with pregnant women.
The changes, which will apply to pregnant women seeking asylum, bring ICE policy closer in line with an executive order signed by President Donald Trump a week after taking office past year. The agency said it will detain pregnant women "whose detention is necessary to effectuate removal, as well as those deemed a flight risk or danger to the community". The new policy was outlined in "Identification and Monitoring of Pregnant Detainees" a directive Homan sent in December 2017.
Officials claim pregnant immigrants will receive "appropriate medical care" while they are in custody.
"To miscategorize this as some wholesale change, or some kind of draconian act is really hyperbole", he told reporters on a conference call. That order scrapped the Obama-era prosecutorial discretion policy instructing officers to deprioritize detaining and deporting certain immigrants. Twelve detainees died in ICE custody in 2017, the deadliest year since 2009. The old policy stated that pregnant women were generally not detained, unless it was mandatory by law or warranted under "extraordinary circumstances".
Pregnant women have not fared much better with ICE lately. Report after report from immigrants' rights watchdog groups have been critical of ICE's ability to provide health care to detainees. Two women told HuffPost they lost pregnancies at ICE detention centers past year. A Salvadoran rape survivor said she was held at Houston's Joe Corley Detention Center for six months after she found out she was pregnant and requested her release.
Calling it an "attack on women and children", Michelle Brané, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at Women's Refugee Commission, said the organization "condems" the move.
David Jennings, field office director for ICE in San Francisco, in a statement Friday said he was poking fun at himself when he posted the item on LinkedIn.