DHS Issues New Enforcement Priorities by anna taylor
The Biden administration has issued new guidance for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Officers. The new guidance considers immigrants who are a threat to national security, public safety, or who recently entered the United States unlawfully as enforcement priorities. It is a clear departure from the Trump administration, which considered every undocumented immigrant an enforcement priority.
ICE will consider an immigrant to be a threat to national security if they have engaged in espionage or terrorism. Whether an immigrant is a threat to public safety is a more complicated question. ICE will look at the person’s criminal history and balance it against positive factors, such as whether the immigrant is of advanced or tender age, whether they have any health issues that contributed to the criminal activity, whether the immigrant is a victim of crime and whether they are taking care of family members in the US. Lastly, ICE will consider someone an enforcement priority if they entered the US unlawfully or were caught attempting to enter the US unlawfully after November 1, 2020. The new guidance will go into effect November 29th.
This guidance is based on prosecutorial discretion. Prosecutorial discretion is the ability of an agency or law enforcement officer to determine when to prosecute an offense. It enables law enforcement officers to decide which cases are priorities and where to devote the agency’s resources. As Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, explained “Are we going to spend the time apprehending and removing the farmworker who is breaking his or her back to pick fruit that we all put on our tables? Because if we pursue that individual, we will not be spending those same resources on somebody who does, in fact, threaten our safety. And that is what this is about.”
Immigration advocates have expressed concerns over this guidance. ICE officers still have discretion when deciding who to arrest. For example, interim guidelines from this administration required a supervisor to sign off on some deportation cases. These guidelines do not have that requirement. Secretary Mayorkas has stated that ICE officers will get additional training and that he will monitor data regarding deportations and arrests. Immigration advocates are concerned that that is not enough oversight. Advocates point to ICE and Customs and Border Protection’s history of abuse. They are concerned that without adequate oversight, those abuses will continue. The Alaska Institute for Justice (AIJ) is the only non-profit in Alaska that provides representation in immigration matters. AIJ’s services are free or low-cost, depending on the case. AIJ prioritizes cases involving domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other crime victimization.
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