ICE Formalizes Inhumane Detention Policies for Pregnant Women

March 29, 2018

Washington, D.C.– According to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policy directive released today, ICE has formalized its practice of detaining pregnant women in response to President Trump’s executive order “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” The practice of detaining pregnant women is inhumane and unsafe.

Last fall, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the American Immigration Council (Council), alongside partner organizations, submitted an administrative complaint with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on behalf of women who are or were pregnant and detained by ICE. The complaint highlighted reports by currently and formerly detained women that illustrate ICE’s failure to establish practices that place reasonable limits on the detention of pregnant women.

Annaluisa Padilla, AILA president, said in response to the directive, “This policy is an egregious human rights offense. In the past, the agency’s practice was to severely limit the detention of women who were pregnant. With this policy, the detention of pregnant women is a matter of routine, and ICE officers will only exercise their discretion to release them on a case-by-case basis. This is concerning given the current administration's exceptionally narrow view of discretion when it comes to immigrants. Detention creates serious health risks, and many women have medical needs that cannot typically be addressed in a detention setting. We are deeply dismayed by today’s directive and will continue our calls for a policy limiting the detention of pregnant women and for the use of proven, effective alternatives to detention instead.”

Katie Shepherd, advocacy counsel for the Immigration Justice Campaign, a joint initiative between AILA and the Council, said, “This new ICE policy directive confirms our fears that the government intends to use detention far more aggressively against pregnant women despite substantial evidence that detention of this particularly vulnerable population has been linked to serious health implications to the mother and unborn child. Detention also constitutes a significant barrier to receiving a meaningful day in court. Nationally, only 37 percent of all immigrants and a mere 14 percent of detained immigrants secured legal representation between 2007 and 2012. AILA, the Council, and our partners will not sit idly by—we will continue the fight for justice and push back against the practice of detaining pregnant women.”

Read the 2017 complaint in its entirety here.


For more information contact, Maria Frausto at the American Immigration Council, at [email protected] or 202-507-7526 or Belle Woods at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, at [email protected] or 202-507-7675

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