On March 29, reports surfaced that the Trump administration has plans to completely shake how Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operates. Thanks to changes to immigration policy made by President Donald Trump's executive order, ICE will detain pregnant women, according to The Daily Beast, a major change from its prior policy. Welcome to Thursday, everyone.
ICE's previous policy was to automatically release pregnant women from detention, but this new order will only allow pregnant women to be released if an ICE officer decides so on a case-by-case basis. The change is thanks to Executive Order 13768, "Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States," which is a push to require stricter enforcement on immigration laws which President Donald Trump signed in January 2017. The order specifically notes that classes and groups of people — like, say, pregnant women — should not be exempted from immigration enforcement. "We cannot faithfully execute the immigration laws of the United States if we exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement," it reads.
ICE confirmed the new policy in a statement to Elite Daily on March 29. It reads,
To better align with the President’s Executive Order, ICE has ended the presumption of release for all pregnant detainees. Instead, as with all detainees except those in cases of mandatory detention, ICE will complete a case-by-case custody determination taking any special factors into account. This does not mean that all pregnant aliens will be detained; only those whose detention is necessary to effectuate removal, as well as those deemed a flight risk or danger to the community.
The statement added that unless there were "extraordinary circumstances," ICE would not detain a pregnant woman who was in her third trimester, and that detention facilities would "continue to provide" prenatal care and access to specialists for women in custody.
For those wondering why this is such a controversial change to ICE's procedures, advocates for immigrants' rights have maintained that detention is dangerous for pregnant woman, and that women are more likely to miscarry in detention. Although pregnant women were not allowed to be detained under the previous policy, it sometimes happened anyway. In late 2017, the ACLU and immigrant advocacy groups filed a complaint against ICE over the treatment of pregnant women in the agency's custody. "Several women in our complaint report that they were ignored and denied immediate medical care even in cases of extreme bleeding and pain," the ACLU said.
Adrienne Kimmell, Vice President for Strategic Communications and Research for NARAL Pro-Choice America released a statement discussing how this new policy jeopardizes both the safety of pregnant women and contradicts the Trump administration's adamant "pro-life" policy.
This policy change is part of an increasingly alarming trend of the Trump Administration asserting its power at the grave expense of the health, wellbeing, and rights of women, including pregnant women and immigrants. This policy will undoubtedly further jeopardize and health of pregnant women in the ICE’s custody, who are already likely facing difficult conditions and need access to health care the most. While the Trump-Pence administration brags about its ‘pro-life’ credentials, it does not blink an eye when it comes to the lives of our most vulnerable populations.
Twitter has also openly expressed their disdain for this order, and some have even pointed out that this might lead to more pregnant women to miscarry while detained.
Just when I thought things might be looking up for women, it looks like we're back at square one. On March 22, the White House passed a federal package that includes $492 million funding for The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). Money will go towards helping victims of domestic violence and sexual assault as well as investment towards reducing backlogs of rape kits. I guess good news doesn't last long when Donald Trump is president.
That's great and all, but I can only support a movement that aims to help all women.