Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has begun the abhorrent policy of detaining pregnant women in immigration jails. ICE will no longer automatically release from custody pregnant women charged with being in the U.S. illegally while their cases make their way through immigration court.
Automatically releasing pregnant women from custody was the general practice under the Obama administration. ICE only locked up pregnant women in “extraordinary circumstances.”
Now, under the Trump administration, ICE is locking up pregnant women who are in the U.S. illegally as a matter of course. ICE will only release pregnant women in their third trimester—when they are ineligible to fly—or on a case-by-case basis.
The policy change stems from President Trump’s “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” executive order issued in January 2017. That executive order requires stricter enforcement of immigration laws. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) finalized this policy in December. However, ICE released details of the policy to Congress and the public last week.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Family Physicians urged ICE to reverse its decision. These organizations also urged ICE to automatically release adolescents from custody. “It has been documented that while in immigration detention facilities, pregnant women and adolescents experience poor access to medical care, and are highly vulnerable to sexual assault,” reads a letter signed by the chief executives of each organization.
What You Should Do
Moreover, remember that every person in the U.S. has rights granted by the United States Constitution, regardless of immigration status. These rights remain even when immigration laws change or enforcement escalates. Know your rights and what to do if ICE agents stop you on the street or if ICE agents come knocking on your door. Remember that you:
- Cannot be detained or arrested for refusing to give your name or immigration status in most states, including California. (Unfortunately, not so in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Kansas City, Mo., Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin.)
- Are not required to answer questions. Moreover, answering questions or volunteering information could increase your risk of deportation.
- Should have the number of a trusted attorney with you so you can call in an emergency.
- Need to say you want to speak to your lawyer If taken into custody by ICE.
- Should not under any circumstances sign any paperwork, especially a voluntary departure document.
- Insist on seeing an immigration judge at the court closest to where you live.
We Can Help
The Alcorn Immigration Law team is monitoring the latest immigration policy changes. We can help you preserve your rights to stay in the U.S., whether you’re undocumented, a Dreamer, or out of status. If you, a family member, a friend, or a colleague need help, contact us.