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The Biden administration has released a new one guidelines for federal immigration enforcement that prioritizes the most immediate threat to public safety, while still leaving discretion in the hands of individual officers and agents.
“What we did was we guided our workers to exercise its discretion to focus on individuals who threaten national security, public safety and border security,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told NPR.
Under the new guidelines, outlined in a memo from Mayorkas to Immigration Customs and Enforcement and other agencies, being present only in the U.S. without legal permission “should not be the basis” for immigration authorities to arrest or deport a person.
For many, ICE has become the de facto face of former President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown, as agents are free to arrest anyone they meet who is in the country illegally. With these new guidelines, the Biden administration is trying to distance itself from those policies.
It’s an “inaccessible fact,” Mayorkas said, that “the vast majority of undocumented individuals … have contributed significantly to our communities across the country over the years. They include individuals who have worked. on the frontlines in the fight against COVID, teach Our children, do the backbreaking farm work to help deliver food to our table. ”
But like many of Biden’s immigration policies, the new policies were quickly attacked from all sides.
The guidelines “sit somewhere between loneliness and human turmoil,” according to Jon Feere.
“Violation of American immigration laws is not a reason to hold someone accountable for violating American immigration laws,” write Feere, a former ICE chief of staff during the Trump administration is now at the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, advocating for lower levels of immigration.
The new guidance is more reflective of the implementation priorities laid out in interim guidance from the Biden administration last year. But after criticism from Republicans and immigration hardliners, the final guideline gives more freedom to individual ICE agents to decide about who is a threat to public safety.
Immigrant advocates are concerned that open language could lead to abuse.
“This new memo of guidance falls short of the promises of the Biden administration and promises to create a fair and humane immigration system,” said Yaritza Méndez with the advocacy group Make New York Road.
“Left to use their own judgment, agencies like ICE have an alarming history of terrorism, detention and segregation of communities. We cannot continue to build on a system that has caused harm to our immigrant communities. , “Méndez said in a statement.
But DHS Secretary Mayorkas echoed those concerns.
“Yes, it leaves judgment in the hands of the agents. But that judgment is guided. It is administered. It is governed, it is administered,” Mayorkas told NPR.
He said ICE officials must look at a wide range of factors when deciding who to arrest and deport – and DHS will put precautions in place to make sure they do.
“We are accountable to ourselves internally, and we are accountable to ourselves publicly externally,” he said.