Jul 9, 2021 - Politics & Policy

ICE to end detentions of most pregnant, nursing and postpartum immigrants

A Salavadoran woman, five months pregant, waits to board a U.S. Customs and Border Protection bus.
A Salavadoran woman, five months pregant, waits to board a U.S. Customs and Border Protection bus after crossing the border from Mexico on April 13 in La Joya, Texas. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will no longer detain most pregnant, nursing and postpartum undocumented immigrants, per a new policy released Friday.

Why it matters: The policy is the latest move by the Biden administration to ease immigration detention policies implemented during the Trump administration.

  • The policy reverses a Trump-era rule passed in 2017 that “ended the presumption of release for all pregnant detainees," per the Washington Post.
  • ICE detained pregnant individuals more than 4,600 times from 2016 to 2018, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

The big picture: ICE's new policy expands on Obama-era rules that exempted most pregnant individuals from immigration detention.

  • The Biden administration's policy also includes those who gave birth within the year and those who are nursing.
  • The language in the new policy will be gender-neutral, acknowledging that transgender men can give birth, marking another change from prior policy, according to the New York Times.

What they're saying: "ICE is committed to safeguarding the integrity of our immigration system and preserving the health and safety of pregnant, postpartum and nursing individuals," acting ICE director Tae D. Johnson said in a statement.

  • "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."

Of note: Pregnant and postpartum immigrants may still be detained if they pose "an imminent risk of death, violence or physical harm" or are a national security concern, according to ICE.

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