President Joe Biden’s administration announced on Friday that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would no longer detain pregnant or nursing women. This new policy is an expansion of former President Barack Obama‘s rules regarding pregnant women.
The policy states that ICE should not “detain, arrest, or take into custody” those in violation of immigration laws who are known to be pregnant, nursing, or had a baby within the previous year, “unless release is prohibited by law or exceptional circumstances exist.”
The exceptional circumstances are listed as those who pose a “risk of death, violence, or physical harm to any individual,” or those who pose “national security concerns.”
The new policy expands on rules enacted under the Obama administration, but now also includes those who gave birth within the past year and those who are nursing.
Earlier this month, Tae Johnson, the ICE director, instructed ICE to focus on arresting immigrants that have recently crossed the border, those with criminal convictions, and anyone who is threatening.
“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,” Johnson said. “This reflects our commitment to treat all individuals with respect and dignity while still enforcing our nation’s laws.”
According to CBS News, 4,000 pregnant women have been arrested and detained since 2017.
Eunice Cho, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer, says that this new policy is a good way for immigrant women to be treated with compassion.
“ICE should stop detaining or arresting people who would be at a particular risk in detention, must implement robust oversight of detention facilities, and ensure the release of all people who would be particularly vulnerable in detention,” the lawyer said.
A total of 13 pregnant women were in ICE custody as of Thursday and were being considered for release under the new policy.