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President Biden’s administration is expected to begin releasing pregnant women and those who recently gave birth after they are apprehended illegally crossing the US-Mexico border.
Although fewer than 20 people currently held by the government would be released, prior Biden administration policy changes have been panned for unintentionally fueling the ongoing border crisis.
In a break from Trump administration policies, Biden declined to deport minors who illegally crossed the border without their parents — a decision that critics said contributed to the current situation, which is driven by family units and unaccompanied children from Central America.
The new policy will apply to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but not US Customs and Border Protection — meaning that the women could be apprehended at the border before being released by ICE, the New York Times reports.
“ICE is committed to safeguarding the integrity of our immigration system and preserving the health and safety of pregnant, postpartum and nursing individuals,” said acting ICE Director Tae Johnson.
“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.”
The carveout for pregnant and postpartum women may be part of a broader easing of COVID-19 policies enacted under former President Donald Trump that resulted in the prompt deportation of most single adults and some families.
Biden reportedly is considering ending the so-called Title 42 policy of turning away many migrants to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Republicans argue that Biden’s policies are to blame for the surge in migration — a stance also taken by Guatemala’s president as well as Mexico’s president.
The number of US-Mexico border detentions hit a 21-year monthly high of more than 180,000 in May. Nearly 179,000 people were detained in April and more than 173,000 were intercepted in March.
Biden campaigned on welcoming Central American asylum seekers and is backing bills to legalize most illegal immigrants. He canceled construction of Trump’s US-Mexico border wall and ended his “Remain in Mexico” policy, which required Central Americans to remain in Mexico while US courts reviewed claims of persecution.
Biden also dropped a 2019 rule banning immigrants deemed likely to require welfare, boosted a refugee admission cap and ended the Justice Department’s 2018 “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting all illegal border crossings.
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