Advocates File FOIA Request for ICE Documents on Detention of Pregnant Women
WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union, American Immigration Council, and the Women’s Refugee Commission filed a Freedom of Information Act request today with Immigration and Customs Enforcement for documents related to its detention of pregnant women.
The request comes in response to a directive ICE issued in December 2017 and made public in March 2018 that ended the presumption that pregnant women should be released from detention except in extraordinary circumstances. The public’s response to the policy shift — including from medical experts and members of Congress — has been significant. More than 250 organizations sent a letter to ICE last month urging it to reverse this decision.
Through this request submitted today, the organizations seek more information regarding the treatment of pregnant individuals held in ICE custody and any system used to track and monitor pregnant detainees. The request also asks for more detailed information, including the total number of pregnant detainees held in ICE custody, the total number of pregnant detainees who were deported directly from detention, and the number of times that detainees were transferred to external medical facilities for medical care associated with the pregnancy.
Detaining pregnant women poses dangerous health risks for the woman and her pregnancy. In September 2017 the groups filed an administrative complaint with the Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and DHS Office of Inspector General documenting the harmful and dangerous conditions that pregnant women face while in ICE custody. Those reports include women who suffered miscarriages in detention, verbal and physical abuse, and serious delays in emergency care and prenatal treatment. The complaint also documents ICE’s track record of failing to meet the medical and mental health needs of individuals in its custody.
“This administration continues to subject people to a massive detention system that puts lives at risk while weakening even the most minimal accountability and oversight measures,” said Victoria Lopez of the ACLU. “It is yet another example of abusive and wasteful immigration enforcement tactics that are meant to indiscriminately target immigrants and further expand an inhumane immigration detention system. This policy change encourages ICE to unnecessarily lock up more immigrant women regardless of their health needs and at great harm to them, their families, and communities.”
Katie Shepherd of the American Immigration Council said, “A governmental policy calling for the prolonged detention of pregnant women — an incredibly vulnerable population requiring specialized medical care — is arbitrary and cruel.”
Katharina Obser of the Women’s Refugee Commission said, “The detention of pregnant women is both cruel and unnecessary, and the current directive represents yet another attack on immigrants by this administration. The detention of pregnant women inhibits their access to care and undermines their right to asylum and other legal relief. ICE must stop detaining and traumatizing vulnerable women and should immediately reverse this policy shift.”
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