ICE announces temporary guidelines for enforcement, deportationTuesday, March 02, 2021
WASHINGTON, DC, United States (CMC) — Amid deep concerns about the “targeted” deportations of Haitians and other Caribbean immigrants, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency says it is implementing interim operating guidance that will temporarily govern its civil immigration enforcement and removal operations.
ICE said it is doing so until US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas issues new enforcement guidelines for the department.
Mayorkas is expected to issue new enforcement guidelines in less than 90 days after consultation with department personnel and external stakeholders, ICE said.
It said its interim guidance will focus the agency's civil immigration enforcement and removal resources on threats to national security, border security and public safety.
“The guidance defines which cases are presumed to present such threats and do not require prior approval,” ICE said. “The guidance also sets forth a pre-approval process for any civil immigration enforcement action that does not meet the presumption criteria.”
In addition, ICE said the guidance sets forth weekly reporting requirements “to ensure coordination and consistency and to inform the development of the secretary's final enforcement guidelines”.
“By focusing our limited resources on cases that present threats to national security, border security and public safety, our agency will more ably and effectively execute its law enforcement mission,” said ICE acting director, Tae Johnson.
“Like every law enforcement agency at the local, state and federal level, we must prioritise our efforts to achieve the greatest security and safety impact,” he added. “Further, by implementing a system for obtaining prior approval before pursuing certain cases, and through regular reporting of civil immigration enforcement actions, we will better coordinate our efforts, achieve consistency in our operations, and inform the development of the secretary's new enforcement guidelines. We look forward to working closely with the secretary throughout this process.”
The operating guidance defines which cases are presumed to present US national security, border security and public safety threats, and which cases do not carry such presumptions and, thus require, prior approval before pursuing.
ICE said Caribbean and other immigrants are presumed to present a threat to US national security “if they have engaged in or are suspected of terrorism or espionage, or if their apprehension is otherwise necessary to protect our national security”.
These immigrants are presumed to be a border security enforcement priority “if they are apprehended while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States on or after November 1, 2020, or if they were not physically present in the United States before November 1, 2020”, ICE said.
Additionally, ICE said individuals are presumed to be a threat to public safety if, for example, they have been convicted of an aggravated felony or engaged in certain activity as part of a criminal gang or transnational criminal organisation, and there is reason to believe they currently pose a threat.
In evaluating whether these immigrants pose a threat to public safety, ICE said officers and agents are to consider the “extensiveness, seriousness and recency of any criminal activity, as well as mitigating factors, including, but not limited to, personal and family circumstances, health and medical factors, ties to the community, and evidence of rehabilitation”.
ICE said its prioritisation of individuals with aggravated felony convictions is consistent with congressional intent in creating that distinct category of offences.
“Absent exigent circumstances, ICE's field personnel will need to obtain prior approval from their chain of command before pursuing cases that do not meet the presumption criteria,” the immigration enforcement agency said.
It said its interim operating guidance requires enforcement personnel to review cases on “an individualised basis, in accordance with the law, and encourages coordination between in-the-field personnel and agency leadership”.
ICE said the issuance of the interim guidance is “one step in the agency's effort to use its limited resources to enforce the nation's immigration laws most impactfully and justly”.
Last month, Caribbean American Democratic Congresswoman Yvette D Clarke joined the United States House of Representatives' chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, Congressman Bennie G Thompson, in urging Johnson to immediately stop what they described as the “targeted” deportations of Haitians.
Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York, and Thompson met with Johnson on the matter.
“As members of the House Homeland Security Committee, this call was imperative,” Clarke told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC). “Haiti is facing a delicate political landscape that could cause disproportionate harm to wrongfully deported immigrants.
“As the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, I can confidently say, our immigration system is broken,” she added. “The targeted deportation to Haiti illustrates the violence exacted on immigrant communities, particularly immigrant communities of colour.
“I realise ICE must carry out its mission in line with legal precedents. However, this must be done in a way that is sensitive to humanitarian needs for recent border crossers,” Clarke continued.
Thompson said that, “as the Joe Biden Administration implements immigration policies that are more in line with our American values and priorities, it is imperative that they assist migrants from Haiti and take into account conditions on the ground in their country.
“Continuing with deportations to Haiti risks further destabilisation, and I encourage the Administration to consider all possible options to prevent further harm,” he urged.
On January 20, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order directing the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to revise its immigration enforcement guidance to “safeguard the dignity and well-being of all families and communities”.
In response, then Acting Secretary David Pekoske imposed an immediate, 100-day moratorium on the vast majority of deportations.
But, on January 26, a Texas judge suspended President Biden's moratorium.
“Let me be very clear, the Administration's moratorium on deportations is not only lawful but necessary to ensure that families are not separated, and people are not subjected to unnecessary danger while the Administration reviews the past actions of the xenophobic Trump Administration,” said Clarke, who on February 8, joined a coalition of Democrats in penning a letter to Mayorkas, demanding a halt in the mass deportations of black immigrants.
Earlier, two immigration advocacy groups in New York called on Biden to intervene immediately in stopping what they described as the mass deportation of Haitians.
The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), an umbrella policy and advocacy organisation for more than 200 groups in New York State, and the Brooklyn-based Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees said that since February 1, ICE has deported roughly 300 Haitians.
The group said “another shameful 1,800 deportations” are expected in the next two weeks.
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