Asylum seekers are seen at the border crossing in Tijuana, Mexico, on March 26. File Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI | License Photo
July 9 (UPI) -- Federal immigration authorities issued a new policy on Friday that says migrant women who are pregnant, postpartum or nursing should not be taken into custody.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued the new guidance, which softens the agency's immigration stance a bit from the hard-line position it held under former President Donald Trump.
In addition to safeguards for pregnant migrants, the move also applies to transgender migrants who can give birth.
"ICE is committed to safeguarding the integrity of our immigration system and preserving the health and safety of pregnant, postpartum and nursing individuals," Acting ICE Director Tae Johnson said in a statement.
"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. This reflects our commitment to treat all individuals with respect and dignity while still enforcing our nation's laws."
ICE suspended the practice of automatically letting pregnant detainees go in 2018.
Following that policy, thousands of women were arrested. Presently, there are about 20 women in federal custody who meet the terms of the new policy.
"Any change in presidential administration can materially change people's lives, especially immigrants and folks who are kind of trying to navigate their way through the immigration system," immigration advocate attorney Breanne Palmer told The New York Times.
The issue has taken on a new level of concern after an expecting mother being held by ICE experienced a stillbirth.
Since taking office, Biden has reversed several Trump-era immigration rules by executive order.
More hawkish immigration opponents argue that pregnant women should be turned away at the border to prevent their children from being born as United States citizens.