The Biden administration announced on Friday that it would mainly avoid detaining undocumented migrants who are pregnant, breastfeeding or postpartum.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a statement Friday saying the policy recognizes the time needed for infant development and parenting. He overturned a 2017 Trump-era rule that allowed authorities to detain immigrants in these specific situations.

ICE Acting Director Tae D. Johnson said in a statement that pregnant women and those who have just given birth have “unique needs” and ICE will not detain them unless “the release is prohibited by law or exceptional circumstances exist “.

FILE – Immigrant Maricelda Mejilla, 6, kisses her pregnant mother, Meregilda, as they wait inside the central bus station after being processed and released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on 24 June 2018, in McAllen, Texas.

“This reflects our commitment to treat all individuals with respect and dignity while upholding the laws of our country,” Johnson said.

Under the Obama administration, ICE generally spared pregnant women from immigrant detention. With Friday’s statement, the Biden administration takes it one step further by including not only women who have given birth in the previous year, but also those who are breastfeeding, which can often last for more than a year.

Immigration advocates welcomed the announcement, but noted that the directive distinguishes between the deportation process and the criminal process for immigration-related crimes, meaning that pregnant women can still be held in certain limited circumstances.

Eunice Cho, senior counsel for the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement the announcement was a “step in the right direction” but there was still a need for “rigorous monitoring. detention centers “. “

“This move brings us one step closer to a more humane treatment with ECI of pregnant, postpartum or breastfeeding people,” Cho said.

In Friday’s statement, ICE said: “In the very limited circumstances in which detention is necessary and appropriate, ICE provides general health and welfare care, including regular custody and reassessment. medical, ensuring appropriate prenatal and / or postnatal care, and other medical and mental health care.

ICE offers pregnancy tests for people in detention as part of the agency’s regular health check. According to the policy, women who find out they are pregnant after the test should “generally” be released from detention.

In addition to the ICE announcement, the US Department of Homeland Security’s 2022 budget allocation contains provisions restricting the detention of pregnant women.

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