Illegal immigrant women who are pregnant or nursing will no longer be arrested or detained, barring exceptional circumstances, ICE announced Friday.
Pregnant women can still be sent into the immigration courts to face eventual deportation, but should not be placed into a custodial setting for fear of disrupting the pregnancy or the bond with a nursing child, the agency said in its new policy.
When circumstances do require a pregnant, postpartum or nursing woman to be taken into custody, she must be given mental health services and housed in facilities that can handle her needs, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.
And the use of restraints on pregnant women remains banned, except in cases where it’s ordered by a doctor or where the woman is deemed to be an immediate threat to herself or others.
“Given the unique needs of this population, we will not detain individuals known to be pregnant, postpartum or nursing unless release is prohibited by law or exceptional circumstances exist,” said Tae Johnson, ICE’s acting director. “This reflects our commitment to treat all individuals with respect and dignity while still enforcing our nation’s laws.”
The policy drew praise from immigrant rights advocates, but they said ICE should go further.
“ICE should stop detaining or arresting people who would be at particular risk in detention, must implement robust oversight of detention facilities, and ensure the release of all people who would be particularly vulnerable in detention,” said Eunice Cho, a lawyer on the American Civil Liberties Union’s prison project.