ICE Receives New Guidelines: Focus On Safety Threats

Last week, the Biden administration published new priorities for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) about which undocumented immigrants should be targeted for arrest. The new guidelines give ICE agents “broad discretion” to decide who are public safety threats and who are not. These guidelines are explicitly designed to undo the broad arrest policies of the Trump administration, which were as harsh as they were wasteful of government resources.

Now, ICE agents have the ability to focus on different categories of offenders, allowing them to arrest the most serious or dangerous offenders.

“We are…empowering our work force to exercise their judgement, their law enforcement judgement,” said DHS Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas. ICE agents are permitted now to consider the seriousness of past offenses, the impact of those actions, the presence of a firearm, and the age of the offender. ICE agents are also allowed to consider how a deportation would affect the offender’s family before issuing a removal order.

Immigration Advocates Worry About Implications of New Guidelines

By giving so much discretion to the officers, some immigration advocates worry that the Trump-era policy of broad arrests without consideration for the above elements will continue. The Trump policy of sanctioning the arrest of any and all undocumented residents was welcomed by some ICE agents, so advocates question to what degree “empowering” ICE agents will improve policy. Secretary Mayorkas has stated that there will be training for ICE agents regarding the new guidelines.

These guidelines will replace the interim guidelines that were recently challenged in court. “The interim guidance provided clearer boundaries about what agents should do or not do, and a clearer process on how to apply them,” said Lena Graber, senior staff attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. “This new policy removes those boundaries.”

Secretary Mayorkas said this was not the case. “These guidelines are going to be assessed on an ongoing basis,” he said. The memo promised that enforcement decisions would be subjected to “rigorous review” for the first 90 days it is in effect.

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