President Biden is pushing a new immigration policy directive that will hamper the ability of ICE and the American border patrol to detain and deport undocumented migrants: he's ordering new restrictions barring the arrest or detention of any undocumented migrants who are pregnant, or gave birth during the past year.
How ICE agents are supposed to know whether a woman (or a man, since the Biden Administration's language, is gender-neutral, acknowledging that "trans men" can also give birth) has recently given birth, or not, isn't explained in the NYT report. Apparently, the number of pregnant undocumented migrants held in American detention rose sharply under President Trump after the White House reversed a policy from the Obama Administration that helped to limit detention of pregnant women.
The Obama policy was memorably put in place to prevent ICE from discriminating against pregnant undocumented women looking to give birth in the US, ensuring that their child would become a US citizen. The practice, once known as having an "anchor baby" (until progressives deemed this phrase "racist"), is relatively common. ICE has apparently arrested 4K pregnant migrants since 2016, although right now the Biden Administration says there are fewer than 20 such detainees in custody.
Like all of Biden's other immigration policies since taking office, the order not to detain pregnant women will be implemented via executive order.
The problem with forging policy by executive fiat is that the next administration can easily undo whatever Biden did, using the same executive authority.
“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,” said Breanne J. Palmer, a lawyer with UndocuBlack Network, which advocates for current and formerly undocumented Black people in the United States. “People who endure detention when they’re pregnant or nursing, you know, they really have very little recourse,” Ms. Palmer said.
The NYT notes that the policy could aggravate some conservatives who supported President Trump's proposal to eliminate birthright citizenship. The issue also gained traction after a young Honduran mother gave birth to a stillborn child in US detention.
Supporters applauded Biden for going further than President Obama to limit detention of pregnant women. But they insisted there is more work to do, adding that detention of any woman accompanied by a minor should be outlawed. This would make it illegal for ICE and the border patrol to enforce immigration law when confronted with families of migrants (though, to be sure, the majority of undocumented migrants are men looking for work).