President Joe Biden has ordered officers in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to limit the arrest of pregnant or nursing undocumented immigrants.

“Generally, ICE should not detain, arrest or take into custody for an administrative violation of the immigration laws individuals known to be pregnant, postpartum or nursing unless release is prohibited by law or exceptional circumstances exist,” ICE Director Tae Johnson wrote in a memo to officers.

The detailed instruction also protects transgender men and anyone postpartum.

This new policy overturns an order from 2017 made during the Trump Administration that excluded the instructions about protecting pregnant women from being detained. The 2017 policy still required ICE to administer pregnancy tests on women who are being detained.

According to a 2019 Government Accountability Report, the agency detained 2,098 pregnant women in 2018 and 381 nursing women. This is a significant number, especially compared to the final year of the Obama Administration, when 1,380 pregnant women were detained by ICE.

“The immigration detention system separates mothers from their families, denying them the ability to parent; it mistreats pregnant people and denies access to abortion and other reproductive health care, interfering with the rights of detained people to control their reproductive lives and have healthy and positive pregnancy outcomes,” the Center for American Progress noted in its 2019 report.

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