Pregnant Migrant Latinas at the US Border: A Reproductive Justice Informed Analysis of ICE Health Service Policy During "Zero-Tolerance"

J Hum Rights Soc Work. 2022;7(4):349-360. doi: 10.1007/s41134-022-00227-y. Epub 2022 Oct 8.


During the Trump Administration, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Directive (11032.3) revoked the automatic release of pregnant women detained by ICE. This paper presents a policy analysis of the impact of this directive on pregnant Latina migrants. The directive is contextualized as part of the Trump Administration's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy that directed U.S. attorney's offices along the southwest border in April of 2018 to criminally prosecute all cases involving illegal entry with no exceptions. Under this policy, Latin American migrants seeking asylum in the USA faced criminalization, family separation, and detention. Reproductive justice (R.J.) is the guiding conceptual framework for analyzing this policy's impact. Three case studies demonstrate the reproductive and human rights violations impacting pregnant, migrant Latinas seeking to enter the U.S. under "zero-tolerance." This policy did not deter migration from Central and South America and created avoidable harm. Although "zero-tolerance" was rescinded in 2021, the long-term impacts remain unknown. Implications and recommendations for social work practice, policy advocacy, and social work education are provided.

Keywords: Immigration policy; Latinas; Reproductive justice; “Zero tolerance”.