The move is a shift away from the Trump administration, when immigration officers were directed to no longer default to trying to release pregnant women who fall into immigration custody. The Obama administration policy urged officers to presume a pregnant woman could be released except for extreme circumstances.
In an ICE notice sent to members of Congress on Friday and obtained by CNN, acting Director Tae Johnson said the change “reflects our commitment to treat all individuals with respect and dignity while still enforcing our nation’s laws.”
The latest ICE directive outlines the steps that should be taken in the “very limited circumstances” that an individual who’s known to be pregnant, postpartum, or nursing is detained. It includes, for example, notifying senior ICE officials prior to an arrest. If ICE identifies a woman who’s pregnant, postpartum, or nursing, in detention, senior ICE officials should also be notified to determine whether continued detention is appropriate.
The guidance also goes further than directive issued under the Obama administration by also including women who are nursing and the one-year period immediately after they give birth to their child.