The ACLU and Immigrants' Rights Groups Have Filed for ICE Documents About Detained Pregnant Women

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the American Immigration Council and the Women’s Refugee Commission have filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to access Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) documents relating to the detention of pregnant women. Approximately 500 pregnant women were detained by ICE in 2016, and with ICE “determined to continue this cruel and unnecessary practice,” those numbers could surge, and with deadly results:


Their stories are harrowing. One 31-year-old asylum seeker was detained when she was four months pregnant. Shortly after her arrest, she began to experience severe pain and bleeding. She pleaded with detention authorities for medical care, but she was ignored. Instead, she was transferred from a Border Patrol holding facility to an ICE detention center in southern California, and miscarried.

Another 23-year-old asylum seeker was detained at a U.S. port of entry when she was 12 weeks pregnant. She was held in ICE custody for three months and transferred between facilities six times. One transfer between New Mexico and Texas took 23 hours and landed her in the hospital for exhaustion and dehydration. She experienced nausea, vomiting, weakness, headaches, and abdominal pain during her detention and did not receive sufficient prenatal vitamins or adequate medical attention.

Surging arrests combined with substandard care at detention facilities is a recipe for disaster. Even before the administration’s policy change, pregnant detainees said they were already getting denied adequate care. Among the detained population overall, one dozen immigrants died in ICE detention in fiscal year 2017, the most since 2009. “Pregnancy is a serious medical issue that requires close monitoring and attention, which ICE is not equipped to provide,” the ACLU reports. “Locking up more pregnant women is cruel, and puts them needlessly at risk.”

“We will not stand idly by as the negative effects of this administration’s detention policies on pregnant immigrant women continue to unfold,” Congress members Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) wrote in a recent op-ed. Both, along with Congress member Adam Smith (D-WA), have authored a bill that would release pregnant women from ICE detention. “We will continue to fight for the health and dignity of all the detained pregnant women who, out of fear and desperation, have come to America.”

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