President Joe Biden’s administration will reportedly instruct ICE detention centers around the country that illegal immigrant women in federal custody have a right to abortions and should be transferred to receive one if they are being detained in a state where abortion is illegal.
A leaked memo from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Tae Johnson that was reported by the Wall Street Journal instructs that ICE detention centers ensure that pregnant illegal immigrants have access to abortions at taxpayer expense. The memo reportedly cites the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization which overturned Roe v. Wade and returned the abortion issue to the states.
“This memorandum serves as a reminder of existing ICE policies and standards requiring that pregnant individuals detained in ICE immigration custody have access to full reproductive health care,” Johnson reportedly writes to Corey Price, who leads the enforcement division of ICE. “This is also a reminder that, pursuant to existing ICE policy, it may be necessary to transfer a detained pregnant individual within an area of responsibility (AOR) or to another AOR, when appropriate and practicable, in order to ensure such access.”
ICE policy requires that the agency provide abortions to migrant women who are pregnant by rape or incest, or in medical emergencies, the Journal reports.
An official told the paper that Johnson’s memo will likely be sent later this week as part of the Biden administration’s larger push to secure abortion access where possible as pro-life states make abortion illegal.
On Friday, the president announced an executive order intended to expand access to abortion pills, protect the right of women to travel from pro-life states to pro-choice states if they want an abortion, and have federal agencies take other actions that could undermine state enforcement of abortion restrictions.
Biden called the Supreme Court’s abortion decision “totally wrongheaded” and criticized it as “an exercise in raw political power.”
The ICE memo will impact migrants who have been detained for entering the country illegally and may be held in states where abortions are restricted. Some ICE detention centers use space inside local and county jails to hold migrants or rely on local contractors to operate their facilities, the Journal reports.
In the event that state laws prevent local jails or contractors from facilitating an abortion, the ICE directive will take precedent, the official said.
According to the Journal, it is unclear how many migrants will be impacted by the directive since Biden has also ordered ICE to avoid arresting or detaining pregnant women.