PRESIDENT Biden’s administration are planning to limit ICE immigration arrests and deportations after signing executive orders to cancel several Trump policies.
It means ICE agents will no longer seek to deport immigrants for crimes such as driving under the influence and assault.
Under the Biden Presidency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers will soon be given new guidance that will lead to fewer arrests and deportations while using more resources for national security issues, suspects in sex crimes, gang members, felons and recent arrivals, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
The policy change would mean officers no longer seek deportations for immigrants convicted of drunken driving and assault, and will focus instead on national security threats, recent border crossers and people completing prison and jail terms for aggravated felony convictions.
Acting director Tae Johnson sent an email advising senior officials on how to operate while new guidelines are finalized.
According to a memo, obtained by the Washington Post, ICE would cease to pursue deportations of convicted drug criminals, DUI drivers, low-level assaulters, fraudsters and thieves.
The memo read: “Generally, these convictions would not include drug based crimes (less serious offenses), simple assault, DUI, money laundering, property crimes, fraud, tax crimes, solicitation, or charges without convictions.”
However some frustrated ICE officials say the proposed changes will take away agents’ discretion and severely constrain their ability to arrest and deport criminals.
"They’ve abolished ICE without abolishing ICE," an unnamed official told the paper.
Agents seeking to arrest fugitives outside of jails and prisons will need prior approval from the agency’s director in Washington justifying the decision while explaining how the enforcement action “constitutes an appropriate allocation of limited resources,” according to a draft memo circulating at the agency.
The draft guidelines are awaiting approval by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who was confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday.
ICE officials say anyone unlawfully in the United States will still be subject to arrest, including people who committed crimes and were released before the memo was issued.
Crimes such as sex offenses remain a top priority, they said.
During his campaign trail, Joe Biden pledged to rein in and reform ICE under his Presidency, but not eliminate it.
Critics of the Biden administration counter that the January 20 memo will allow thousands of people with criminal histories to remain in the United States and to possibly reoffend.
However Biden officials said they are not abandoning immigration enforcement and will continue to prioritize national security and public safety threats, while preventing the deportation of those who do not meet their more selective criteria.
USCIS spokesman Matthew Bourke said on Sunday: “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recently rescinded two 2018 policy memos related to the issuance of Notices to Appear when processing requests for immigration benefits.”
"The agency was directed to rescind the relevant policy in a [Department of Homeland Security] memo issued Jan. 20."
January 20 marks the day Biden was inaugurated and signed several executive orders – which included overwriting parts of former President Donald Trump’s immigration policy.
The first order establishes a task force to identify and reunite families that were separated at the US-Mexico border under Trump's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy.
"We're going to work to undo the moral and national shame of the previous administration that literally, not figuratively, ripped children from the arms of their families, their mothers and fathers, at the border and with no plan, none whatsoever, to reunify the children," Biden told reporters.
The second executive order creates a "comprehensive regional framework to address the causes of migration" and manage migration throughout North and Central America.
It also aims to provide "safe and orderly processing" of asylum seekers at the border.
The president said his third executive order is "restoring faith in our legal immigrant system and strengthening immigration and inclusion efforts for new Americans."
Biden called Trump’s immigration policies “counterproductive to our security, counterproductive to who were are as a country, particularly regarding immigration."
The president acknowledged he has signed many executive orders since entering office but argued he has not been creating numerous new laws.
“I’m not making new law, I’m eliminating bad policy,” Biden said.
Immigration advocates say they know that Biden faces a “logistical nightmare” but that they are cautiously optimistic that his actions will end former president Donald Trump’s “cruel and harmful” immigration policies.
The three executive orders did not address the status of about 11million undocumented immigrants who have been in legal limbo.
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