March 29 (UPI) -- Immigration and Customs Enforcement will decide whether to detain pregnant undocumented immigrants on a case-by-case basis, according to a memo issued in December.
Under the previous policy, issued in 2014, pregnant immigrants were not detained "absent extraordinary circumstances or the requirement of mandatory detention."
The new policy removes the "extraordinary circumstances" or "mandatory detention" exceptions.
"We are no longer exempting anyone from being subject to the Immigration and Nationality Act," Philip Miller, deputy executive associate director for ICE removal operations, told reporters Thursday. "As a result, we treat those pregnant women who are not subject to mandatory detention as we do any other alien in our custody."
Although many pregnant women were still detained by ICE after the 2014 policy was codified -- including so-called "maternity tourists" who come to the United States for the purpose of giving birth in the country -- critics of the new policy fear more pregnant women could be subject to mentally and physically stressful confinement in immigration detention facilities.
"Women miscarried, did not get prenatal care, had medical emergencies" in immigration detention facilities, tweeted Victoria Lopez of the ACLU's National Prison Project. "Many experienced severe anxiety and depression. Some reported physical and verbal abuse. It's well reported that people do not get the medical care they need in detention. By the way, pregnant women need specialized care."
During fiscal year 2017, 525 pregnant women were detained.
During that time frame, three women suffered miscarriages in an ICE facility, "reportedly due to mistreatment and medical neglect," according to an October 2017 letter to Homeland Security from several members of Congress.