Pregnancy Is No “Get-Out-of-Jail-Free” Card

In January 2017, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) ended its practice of releasing all pregnant immigration violators who were not subject to mandatory detention or extraordinary circumstances warranting detention.

That action was taken in order to better align ICE detention policies with President Trump’s January 2017 Executive Order, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” And it provoked outrage in all of the usual quarters:

  • Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union claimed that “with aggressive enforcement practices targeting immigrants, an expansion of the detention system, and the removal of various oversight mechanisms, pregnant women in ICE detention face more danger than ever before.”

Accordingly, when a detained illegal alien from Honduras recently went into premature labor and delivered a stillborn child, the open borders lobby, jumped at the opportunity to heap scorn on ICE and its sister agency U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) (CBP arrests illegal aliens encountered on the Southern border and ICE detains them):

  • NBC Newsquoted Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) who demanded “nothing less than a full accounting of the circumstances surrounding this tragic event, including the government’s actions.”
  • And the Latino news website Remezcla bemoaned the fact that a stillbirth is not considered an in-custody death by ICE or CBP, implying that the agencies are trying to cover up a “track record of mistreating this vulnerable community” ( i.e., pregnant migrant women).

But here’s the thing: The government voluntarily released a joint ICE/CBP statement, giving full account of its actions. And it appears, that ICE and CBP employees did everything correctly:

  • The illegal alien – who has not been named due to privacy concerns – was six months pregnant when apprehended by CBP.
  • CBP immediately took her to a hospital for a medical screening.
  • She was cleared by doctors and transferred to ICE custody.
  • While in ICE custody, she received medical care from the ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC), which is staffed by clinical care providers from the U.S. Public Health Service.
  • When she went into labor, IHSC personnel attended to her and called EMS personnel and transported her to a local hospital.

Frankly, it’s hard to imagine that either agency could have done anything better. And any reasonable observer would suspect that premature labor was brought on by the stresses associated with a 2,500 mile walk from Honduras to the United States. The choices that migrants make sometimes have harsh consequences but that doesn’t mean that our immigration laws are cruel or inhumane.

However, that type of realistic assessment doesn’t fit the borderless world contingent’s narrative. They want everyone to believe that detaining a pregnant woman is a “human rights violation.” It isn’t. When pregnant women are convicted of crimes, we send them to prison. There is no reason why our immigration enforcement policies should be any different. Especially when so many illegal aliens abscond, failing to show up at Immigration Court hearings.

It’s always tragic when a woman loses a baby. But pregnant illegal aliens eventually give birth to children who gain birthright citizenship – and a host of rights and privileges that accompany it. We simply can’t afford to send the message to every female border-jumper and visa-overstayer that pregnancy is a “get-out-of-immigration-jail-free” card.

About Author


Matthew J. O’Brien joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats. He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.


  1. avatar
    Zobie Reichard on

    Yes we have to stop giving illegals that come to have their babies here just to make citizenship to get our benefits NO They are born to illegals and should not have citizenship this is wrong and unconstitutional they dont belong here till they get things done right to come into our country and totally become citizens this thing has to stop no more anchor babies and DACA HAS TO BE STOPPED They are illegals and get citizenship but hasn’t even made a temp to just to live off us it’s got to end

  2. avatar

    Liberals don’t seem to have a problem with abortion on demand right up to and even after birth. What used to be a very restrictive policy on late term abortions has now in many cases become some nebulous gibberish about the “well being” of the mother, including “mental health”. It’s one thing to say “it’s a woman’s body” at three months, but at later points it is not “their” decision alone. It’s total hypocrisy to make cheap political points solely to make ICE and immigration enforcement in general look uncaring.

    Trump keeps repeating that we {meaning big business} need more workers. Nope. The February jobs report is out and we produced only 20K jobs, far below the number needed to keep up with population growth and the number of immigrants already being admitted. Every study done has concluded that up to 1/3 of jobs will be automated in the next 20 years. It’s happening now. One person watches over 4 self checkouts at stores. And these foreign workers will never leave. Once here they are here to stay and bringing their wives and other relatives with them.

    Retail jobs are rapidly declining. Sears, KMart, Penney’s and many others are closing store after store. Payless and others have declared bankruptcy. The assumption is always made that we need more workers to replace retiring boomers. The youngest boomers, born in 1964, are only 55 this year and far from retirement and most boomers say they will need or want to work past retirement age. Census Bureau reports show that the majority of American STEM college graduates do not work in STEM occupations. Not surprising since we have years and years of American high tech workers being replaced by cheaper H1B workers at American companies.

    The media always portrays Trump supporters as willing to back him unconditionally. So far they have, because he has done what he said he would do. But if he wants to turn into a Paul Ryan globalist on jobs, after promising it would be American workers first, that might be a different story. 30 years of wide open immigration has led to stagnant wages for workers and huge income benefits for the top.

  3. avatar

    Its a Real Humanitarian Border Emergency

    With foreign invasion family units putting their babies in harms way… BUILD THE WALL NOW. With Humanitarian Emergency funding…stop the foreign crimes against their children. Crimes solely committed by Central America and Mexico. Do this ASAP!

  4. avatar

    This was a good outcome for the US taxpayer. Had that premature Anchor Baby been born alive, the costs would have run into the millions. She should have stayed in Honduras and had a healthy, full-term baby in the land of her own birth. Sorry, but all of Central America and half of Mexico can’t come here.