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Make Them Hear You: The Stop Shackling and Detaining Pregnant Women Act

In Morning Magazine

In response to recent reports of mistreatment of pregnant women in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and 21 Democratic-only cosponsors have introduced the Stop Shackling and Detaining Pregnant Women Act.

 

This legislation aims to protect the health and safety of pregnant women and youth in immigration detention by re-instituting the presumption of release of pregnant women and youth, prohibiting the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from shackling pregnant women in its custody, and setting new standards of care and transparency for the treatment of pregnant women and youth.

Many of these migrant women end up pregnant because their smugglers rape them as they’re trying to make their way to the US-Mexico border. Some pregnant women have suffered miscarriages because of “cruel” and “inhumane” practices while in ICE custody.

The women were allegedly denied medical care, shackled around their bellies, and abused while locked up at various detention centers across the Southwest operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In 2016, these women were protected under an Obama-era ICE policy that required agents to only detain expectant mothers under “extraordinary” circumstances. But the Trump Administration has rescinded that order. The US Constitution guarantees automatic citizenship for anyone born on US soil, a provision many conservatives want to see removed from the Constitution.

Recently, when one woman claimed she got caught at the border, federal agents allegedly “threw [her] around” and pushed her to the ground, even after she told them she was pregnant. “They wouldn’t look after me. An official arrived and they said it was not a hospital and they weren’t doctors.”

The Trump Administration detained more than 500 pregnant women this year.

Earlier this year Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and Senator Kamala D. Harris introduced the Detention Oversight Not Expansion (DONE) Act, which would increase oversight of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers and halt funds for construction or expansion of new facilities.

In April, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and other lawmakers sent a letter to ICE, demanding to know why the agency changed its detention policy toward pregnant migrants.

If you have an opinion on the Trump Administration’s policies and women miscarrying while in ICE custody, you can contact your Senators about Senate Bill 3225 and both Houses about the Detention Oversight Not Expansion (DONE) Act.