[WASHINGTON, DC] – Today U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) wrote Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Elaine Duke and Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Thomas Homan to express deep concerns about reports of serious mistreatment of pregnant women at the hands of immigration enforcement officials – contrary to existing policy. Blumenthal asked Acting Secretary Duke and Acting ICE Director Homan to clarify policies and provide additional information about the detention of pregnant woman.
“There have been numerous reports that ICE has mistreated pregnant detainees,” wrote Blumenthal. “A complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, American Immigration Council, and five other advocacy groups on September 26 documents 10 cases in which ICE delayed or denied the release of pregnant women, provided inadequate medical care, or simply ignored pregnant women when they asked for medical assistance. This may have led to physical illness, depression, and miscarriage.”
Blumenthal’s full letter to DHS ICE is available for download here, and copied below.
The Honorable Elaine Duke
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
3801 Nebraska Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20528
The Honorable Thomas D. Homan
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
500 12th Street, SW
Washington, D.C 20536
Dear Acting Secretary Duke and Acting Director Homan:
I am writing to express my concern regarding recent reports about the mistreatment of pregnant women in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) custody. These reports indicate that pregnant women have been detained contrary to existing policy and denied timely medical care. In some cases, these detainees have suffered miscarriages. I ask that your Department provide statistical data and clarify its policies on detention and treatment of pregnant women.
Reports indicate that immigration arrests of women have surged since the beginning of the Trump administration. According to media reports, ICE arrests of women from January through April of 2017 are 35 percent higher than during the same time period last year. Over the past fiscal year, ICE had 525 pregnant women in custody. Detention of pregnant women is an extremely risky practice, since these detainees require special medical attention.
As you know, established ICE policy requires officials to generally avoid detention of pregnant women and to provide proper medical treatment to them. In an August 2016 memorandum from you to your staff, entitled Identification and Monitoring of Pregnant Detainees, you wrote that pregnant women will “generally not be detained by ICE” absent “extraordinary circumstances or the requirement of mandatory detention.” You also asked field operations officials to reevaluate pregnant women on a weekly basis to determine whether they must continue to be detained. In addition, the 2007 ICE Family Residential Standards and Revised 2016 ICE Performance-Based National Detention Standards lay out requirements for proper treatment of pregnant women, including mandating access to pregnancy testing, pregnancy management services, and more. They also generally prohibit the use of force. Detentions of pregnant women must also be approved by the Field Office Director, with notice sent to ICE headquarters.
Despite this guidance, there have been numerous reports that ICE has mistreated pregnant detainees. A complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, American Immigration Council, and five other advocacy groups on September 26 documents 10 cases in which ICE delayed or denied the release of pregnant women, provided inadequate medical care, or simply ignored pregnant women when they asked for medical assistance. This may have led to physical illness, depression, and miscarriage. Monica, a 31-year-old woman from Mexico, was allegedly taken into custody in April when she appeared for an appointment with ICE. She was four weeks pregnant. Three weeks into the detention, she suffered a miscarriage after having to wait over an hour for any medical help. ICE continued to detain Monica for a total of over two months, even after three separate attempts by her attorney to push for her release.
ICE has an obligation to protect individuals that it holds in its custody, especially those who require special care. Given my concern over recent reports, I ask that you provide answers to the following questions within 30 days.
Please provide the following statistics.