April 05, 2018

Harris, Warren, Booker, Colleagues Question ICE on Policy Allowing Increased Detention of Pregnant Women

Reports of Mistreatment and Miscarriages in ICE Facilities; 506 Pregnant Women Detained Since December 2017

Text of letter (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) today sent a letter to Deputy Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Thomas Homan, requesting information on a recent policy change allowing for the increased detention of pregnant women in ICE detention facilities, citing recent reports of mistreatment of pregnant women in ICE custody. The senators asked Deputy Director Homan to clarify the steps ICE is taking to ensure that pregnant women are not held in immigration detention except in extraordinary cases and that pregnant women in ICE detention are treated with dignity and provided prompt and appropriate medical care.

Because immigrant detention centers are ill-equipped to address the unique needs of pregnant women, in 2016 ICE implemented a policy of presumptive release for pregnant women absent extraordinary circumstances. Despite reports of the mistreatment of pregnant ICE detainees in 2017, as well as the DHS Inspector General's identification of significant health-related issues in several ICE detention facilities, Deputy Director Homan issued a directive in December 2017 officially reversing the policy.

"In light of reports that ICE has failed to provide critical medical care to pregnant women in immigration detention-resulting in miscarriages and other negative health outcomes - this policy change is particularly alarming," wrote the senators. "This new policy jeopardizes the health and wellbeing of an exceptionally vulnerable group of people-many of whom are fleeing sexual and physical violence, or experience it as they travel to the United States."

The new directive allows ICE to determine whether to detain or release pregnant women on a case-by-case basis, which could increase the detention of pregnant women. The directive also eliminates specific policies that help ensure pregnant women in immigration detention are timely and properly identified and provided with appropriate care.

The senators have been leading the charge to change the way women are treated in prisons and detention facilities. Last July, Senators Harris, Booker, Durbin and Warren introduced the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act to reform how the federal prison system treats incarcerated women and to better prepare incarcerated women to return to their communities. Additionally, Harris visited the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, California.

The senators asked Deputy Director Homan several questions to clarify ICE's current policy regarding detention of pregnant women by no later than April 19, 2018.

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