Biden administration issues new ICE deportation guidelines

The Biden administration informed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to only arrest and deport those who pose a threat to national and border security and public safety. Photo courtesy U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
The Biden administration informed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to only arrest and deport those who pose a threat to national and border security and public safety. Photo courtesy U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Feb. 18 (UPI) -- The Biden administration on Thursday announced new U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement guidelines that are expected to reduce border arrests and deportations through the refocusing of resources only on security and public safety threats.

Effective immediately, the interim guidelines inform ICE agents to focus enforcement and removal resources on priority cases while directing them to receive pre-approval to take action against anyone who does not fit into the three defined categories of threats to national security, border security or public safety.


"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," Acting ICE Director Tae Johnson said in a statement. "Like every law enforcement agency at the local, state and federal level, we must prioritize our efforts to achieve the greatest security and safety impact."


The guidance issuance comes nearly a month after President Joe Biden signed an executive order reversing the expansion of immigration enforcement in the United States that occurred under the former Trump administration.

That same day, then-Acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske issued a memo directing a department review of immigration enforcement policies and directing ICE to issue interim guidance implementing revised enforcement policies.

The guidelines define border threats as non-citizens suspected of or having been engaged in terrorism or espionage.

Non-citizens defined as border security threats include people arrested while attempting to enter the country after Nov. 1.

And cases defined as a threat to public safety are non-citizens who have been convicted of an aggravated felony or are engaged in criminal activity, such as being part of a gang or transnational criminal organization. The guidelines also direct agents evaluating the threat posed by a non-America to consider "the extensiveness, seriousness and recency of the criminal activity" they were convicted of.

"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," ICE said in a statement. "The issuance of today's 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."


The guidance is to be in effect until DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who was sworn in earlier this month, issues new enforcement guidelines, which is expected to happen within 90 days.

The guidelines, however, were met with criticism as Republicans rebuked it as being dangerous and immigration activists chided it for not going far enough.

James Comer of Kentucky, the ranking Republican member of the House committee on oversight and reform, and Jim Jordan of Ohio, the ranking Republican member of the House judiciary committee, sent a letter to ICE earlier this week amid reports of new guidelines in the pipeline expressing "serious concerns" and requesting further information.

"These reckless changes -- allowing criminal aliens to remain in our communities -- place Americans at risk and will undoubtedly lead to many preventable crimes," the pair said.

On the other hand, Naureen Shah, senior advocacy and policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the new guidelines maintain the injustices of the criminal legal system and will lead to the continued disproportionate deportation of people of color.

"The priorities use sweeping and overboard presumptions of threat that have for decades resulted in biased profiling and harmful immigration consequences for Black and Brown people, including Muslims," Shah said in a statement. "We expect better from the Biden administration."


The American Immigration Council, an immigration advocacy organization, called for the guidelines to be retroactively enforced.

"Now it should re-review the cases of the 14,000 people still in detention and release those who aren't a priority," the Washington, D.C.-based organization tweeted. "While these priorities are a step in the right direction, more work needs to be done, especially when it comes to restore asylum at the border."

The guidance was issued on the same day as Democrats in Congress unveiled a sweeping immigration reform bill that includes a pathway to citizenship for some 11 million people.

Latest Headlines