U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will no longer detain most pregnant, nursing, and postpartum women for deportation, reversing a Trump-era directive Friday
The latest adjustment to U.S. immigration policies adds to the growing list of restrictions placed on ICE officers – a move that has further frustrated members of the GOP.
While the Biden administration has said they are looking to make the U.S. immigration system more humane, Republicans have argued Biden’s policies have created a humanitarian crisis at the border and permitted unrestricted illegal immigration.
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“There’s nothing humane about encouraging human trafficking of infants and pregnant women,” Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton said Friday. “This policy will make the Biden border crisis worse.”
The Biden administration is already facing a lawsuit from Texas sheriffs, their counties, and the Federal Police Foundation – which represents ICE officers – over ICE’s inability to deport illegal immigrants with criminal backgrounds.
But acting ICE Director Tae Johnson said the newest regulations preserve the “health and safety of pregnant, postpartum and nursing individuals” and reflect “our commitment to treat all individuals with respect and dignity.”
The policy directs that in the limited instances when detention is necessary, expectant mothers, along with postpartum, or nursing individuals will be monitored and receive necessary medical and mental health care.
“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,” Johnson said Friday.
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Pregnant and postpartum mothers could still face detention in “very limited circumstances” if the woman “poses an imminent risk of death, violence, or physical harm.”
Under the Obama administration, pregnant women detained by immigration authorities were released from detention, though in 2017 Trump reversed the order.
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Supporters of detaining expectant mothers argue that if they are released they could solidify their position in the U.S. if their child is born before deportation hearings occur.
Opponents of detaining pregnant women argue it puts the health and safety of the mother and infant at risk.