Pregnant and worried about deportation? Here is what you need to know about being pregnant in a detention center.

Detention centers are unpleasant places for everyone, but for pregnant women they can be particularly unforgiving. Horror stories abound in the news about women who have been denied medical care by ICE, even after complications such as miscarriages.

Advocacy groups indicate that while detention of pregnant women by ICE was frowned upon except under “extraordinary circumstances,” this policy has quietly changed during the Trump administration, and that the numbers of pregnant women in detention have gone up in the past year.  As an attorney who has exclusively practiced immigration for over two decades, I can say that my firm has helped pregnant women get out of custody before Trump, but that with the loss of prosecutorial discretion in the past year, it is likely true that more are winding up there now. As I wrote about recently in a national piece for the The Hill, the proof is in the regime policy, and under this president we are seeing very little compassion.

The most important thing to do if you are pregnant and fear deportation? Keep calm, get informed, have family and friends call an immigration lawyer, then make rational decisions.

What should I do if ICE picks me up when I am pregnant?

Call an  immigration lawyer who emphasizes detention and deportation defense as soon as you can. If you are pregnant and worried about deportation, START looking for a good immigration lawyer that you can call if something happens. It’s better to avoid detention than to try and get out of it.

Will I have less access to medical care?

Yes. You will absolutely not have the same access to medical care.  Jails are NOT high level medical facilities. You do not have your “NORMAL” RIGHTS there. I cannot stress enough that if you have a pregnancy that is compromised in any way, and there is any risk of deportation, or detention for you, get legal help BEFORE it happens. There are many stories of women needing medical help, but not getting it until they were in dire shape, or the worst had already happened.

Can I bring my existing medications if I need them?

Our firm has had thousands of detained clients detained over the years and generally their meds were switched up by the doctor who saw them. I once had a client with epilepsy who began having seizures at the jail, because the facility doctors decided to change his anti-seizure medication to a type that did not work. We worked hard to get him out of detention, so he could get the care he needed. In custody you are under the control and supervision of whatever staff is there, working with limited resources and budgets.

What happens if I go into labor? What happens if the newborn is premature and has to remain in NICU? Will I be sent back? Or can I stay with my baby? What happens if I miscarry?

All great questions that I don’t have an answer for. It depends on the center, it depends on the doctor, it depends on the mother. One thing I can stress again is that the administration has not shown a compassionate immigration stance.  This regime has taken individual power away from ICE, making it harder to make decisions based on specific scenarios. You might have the most sympathetic situation — in which ICE would previously have been able to exercise discretion — but under the Trump administration the agency cannot typically help.

Being pregnant can be tough enough under routine circumstances, but it definitely makes you more vulnerable in detention.

What can you do other than call an immigration lawyer if you wind up in detention while pregnant?


Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

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