Immigration Advocates Concerned Over New ICE Policy on Detaining Pregnant Women

Created: 05 April, 2018
Last update: 20 April, 2022
Immigration and Customs Enforcement

By Andrea Lopez-Villafaña

A new policy adopted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Thursday, March 29, revokes limitations on the detention of pregnant women.

The new policy would make it more likely that pregnant immigrants not undergoing extraordinary cases or mandatory detention can be held in custody.

Immigration advocates are concerned for the health of those women detained under the new policy based on a previous case of a detained pregnant Oceanside woman in 2017.

The American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties released a statement on March 29, condemning the new policy and identifying why they believe it runs counter to the values of the nation.

“This new policy underscore the blatant cruelty of Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda,” Executive Director of the ACLU San Diego and Imperial Counties Norma Chavez-Peterson, said in the release. “Locking up pregnant women who are pursuing legal avenues to remain in the United States is reckless and inhumane. This new policy endangers the lives of immigrant women and will likely result in more injuries, deaths and miscarriages.”

Maria Solis, an Oceanside resident, was detained last year and according to the regional ACLU chapter, had a history of complicated pregnancies prior to being detained.

Back in 2017, the organization advocated for Solis and sent a letter to ICE urging for her release from the Otay Mesa Detention Facility.

“The harsh conditions of immigration detention place unnecessary risks on the health of pregnant women,” Senior Staff Attorney of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties Bardis Vakili, said in a September 11, 2017 press release, while the organization was advocating for her release.

Before the announcement of the new policy, ICE policy was based on a memorandum, which identified that ICE must consider and address particular needs and vulnerabilities of pregnant women detained.

“Absent extraordinary circumstances or the requirement of mandatory detention, pregnant women will generally not be detained by ICE,” the Aug. 15, 2016 ICE identification and monitoring of pregnant detainees memorandum reads.

Now, the policy ensures that pregnant detainees in ICE custody are identified, monitored, tracked, and housed in appropriate facilities.

The new policy does not mention that pregnant women will generally not be detained like the previous policy did.

“ICE is committed to identifying and providing appropriate care for pregnant detainees in ICE custody,” the March 29 policy reads.

It also includes the responsibility of ensuring that pregnant detainees receive appropriate medical care, notification that a detainee is pregnant and monitoring the condition of the detainee, among other guidelines.

Norma Chavez-Peterson (Photo courtesy of ACLU)

However, immigrant advocates shares that the new policy removes protections for vulnerable individuals.

“Incredibly, Deputy Director of ICE Thomas Homan has revoked a policy that he himself instituted less than two years ago,” Chavez-Peterson said in the release. “ICE policy now removes critical protections for a particularly vulnerable population and eliminates key reporting requirements for oversight of a detention system that needs more, not less, transparency and accountability.”

According to the FAQ section created for the policy regarding the detention of pregnant women being a human rights abuse, the agency identifies that it is consistent with the law.

“ICE exercises its civil detention authority consistent with the law, and all detainees receive necessary and appropriate health services, food, and care,” the statement on the website reads. “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.”