Less than three weeks after President Joe Biden took office, orders are trickling down that will reduce the numbers of illegal immigrants being deported, according to a new report.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will roll out its new rules this week, according to communications obtained by The Washington Post.
“They’ve abolished ICE without abolishing ICE,” an anonymous official told the Post.
“The pendulum swing is so extreme. It literally feels like we’ve gone from the ability to fully enforce our immigration laws to now being told to enforce nothing,” the official said.
ICE agents are being instructed not to seek deportations for crimes such as driving under the influence and assault, according to a memo the Post obtained.
Deportations may still be sought for individuals who are considered threats to national security, those who have recently entered the country illegally, and individuals who served time in prison for aggravated felonies.
Offenses for which deportations would be sought “would not include drug based crimes (less serious offenses), simple assault, DUI, money laundering, property crimes, fraud, tax crimes, solicitation, or charges without convictions,” acting DHS director Tae Johnson wrote in an email to officials Thursday, according to the Post.
A draft memo said agents will be on a short leash, and that any arrests outside of jails and prisons require the approval of ICE’s director.
Agents who want to make an arrest reportedly must explain why it “constitutes an appropriate allocation of limited resources.”
ICE insisted it will still deport criminals.
“The commission of an aggravated felony is the most conclusive proof of a public safety threat,” ICE spokeswoman Jenny Burke said in a statement. “ICE retains its unlimited discretion to evaluate any conduct in defining a public safety threat.”
Johnson told his staff that illegal immigrants with records of violent behavior, gang affiliations or aggravated felonies should be considered public safety threats who might qualify for deportations. Crimes such as murder, rape, child abuse and major drug offenses would be included, he said.
However, aggravated felonies that are more than 10 years old and not the reason for a recent arrest or “loose affiliation with gang activity” would not meet the new bar for being deported, Johnson wrote.
Ronald Vitiello, a former acting ICE director under former President Donald Trump, said the new policy will “dramatically reduce enforcement.”
“Clearing enforcement actions in Washington, DC sets a tone that Agents do not have the trust and confidence of their leadership at ICE HQ or DHS and possibly higher in the chain of command,” Vitiello said, according to the Post.
A Jan. 20 memo from acting DHS Secretary David Pekoske indicated changes were coming.
“Due to limited resources, DHS cannot respond to all immigration violations or remove all persons unlawfully in the United States. Rather, DHS must implement civil immigration enforcement based on sensible priorities and changing circumstances. DHS’s civil immigration enforcement priorities are protecting national security, border security, and public safety,” the memo said.
“There are policies that we had under President Obama that I think we need to look at and implement,” he said. “And in fact … President Obama actually deported more people than President Trump did.”
“I support ICE,” he added. “I support the men and women that that are there. We just got to find that right policy.”
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