The Trump administration announced Thursday that it will direct Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to release pregnant women from immigrant detention on only a case-by-case basis. The decision reverses an Obama-era policy that generally presumed release, HuffPost reports.
Previously, pregnant women were usually exempted from detention by ICE, but documents released to media Thursday reveal that they will now be treated like any other detainee. ICE officials say that the new policy brings the immigration agency in line with an executive order signed by President Trump last year that pushed for increased immigrant detention.
The new policy will detain "only those whose detention is necessary to effectuate removal, as well as those deemed a flight risk or danger to the community,” reports HuffPost, with some exceptions for pregnant immigrants in their third trimester.
Critics of the change say that ICE detention centers are not equipped to handle the medical needs of pregnant immigrants. More than 500 pregnant women were detained by ICE in 2016, HuffPost reports, and immigrant rights groups say that increasing that number, rather than providing alternatives like mandatory check-ins or ankle bracelets, will mean more health risks for detainees and more taxpayer money spent on detention. A top ICE officer, Philip Miller, told CNN that he disagreed that the change represented a targeted crackdown on pregnant immigrants.
"To mischaracterize this as some kind of wholesale change or draconian change is inaccurate. We're aligning this policy, as all of our policies, with executive orders from the president," said Miller. Read more about the move at HuffPost.