The Biden administration issued new guidelines to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, restricting when agents can initiate deportations.
The guidelines will be in effect for 90 days while ICE develops a long-term plan. According to the memo, deportations can happen to those deemed a national security threat due to terrorism or espionage or who illegally crossed the U.S. border after Nov. 1, 2020.
The memo also requires ICE officers to seek approval before deporting anyone that does not qualify under the new guidelines. The order also specifically notes agents are not required to arrest or remove anyone and are expected to “exercise the discretion thoughtfully.”
“By focusing our limited resources on cases that present threats to national security, border security, and public safety, our agency will more ably and effectively execute its law enforcement mission,” ICE Acting Director Tae Johnson said in a release according to The Hill. “Like every law enforcement agency at the local, state, and federal level, we must prioritize our efforts to achieve the greatest security and safety impact.”
For undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S., the memo states they can be deemed a public safety threat if they’re convicted of aggravated felony, which includes violent offenses but also some nonviolent offenses. The memo also pushes the agency to focus on those who are involved in gang activity.
ICE agents are also now required to weigh a broad set of factors when considering deportation including “the extensiveness, seriousness and recency of any criminal activity, as well as mitigating factors including, but not limited to, personal and family circumstances, health and medical factors, ties to the community, evidence of rehabilitation and whether the individual has potential immigration relief available.”
Mary Meg McCarthy of the National Immigrant Justice Center said it’s hopeful, but concerning.
“It is our hope that Secretary Mayorkas and the incoming Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and ICE leadership will use this interim period as an opportunity to take action to reorient the U.S. immigration system away from punitive enforcement and toward justice and compassion,” McCarthy said in a release. “Transitional period is a critical time during which immigrant communities continue to be harmed by ICE detention and unjust deportations. We are concerned that today’s memo reinforces the rhetorical and structural frameworks contributing to that harm, and does not go far enough to end the culture of cruelty that has taken hold within ICE.”