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Homeland security issues new immigration enforcement guidelines

Homeland security issues new immigration enforcement guidelines
Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, on Thursday issued new guidelines to immigration officials to focus resources on those who pose a threat to the United States. Photo by Al Drago/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 30 (UPI) -- Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Thursday issued new directives to immigration officials ordering them to prioritize enforcement resources on those who pose a threat to "America's well-being."

The new guidelines direct officials to use discretion when deciding if an undocumented migrant should be detained in recognition of the fact that the majority of the estimated 11 million removable non-citizens in the United States are contributing members of society.

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"The fact an individual is a removable non-citizen therefore should not alone be the basis of an enforcement action against them," Mayorkas wrote. "We will use our discretion and focus our enforcement resources in a more targeted way. Justice and our country's well-being require it."

The administration will continue to target resources at those who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security, the department said.

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The guidelines also direct immigration officials to guard against "unscrupulous" employers and landlords who many use immigration enforcement as a tool of retaliation, stating a noncitizen's workplace or tenant rights should be considered a mitigating factor.

"For the first time, our guidelines will, in the pursuit of public safety, require an assessment of the individual and take into account the totality of the facts and circumstances," Mayorkas said in a statement announcing the guidelines. "In exercising this discretion we are guided by the knowledge that there are individuals in our country who have been here for generations and contributed to our country's well-being, including those who have been on the frontline in the battle against COVID, lead congregations of faith and teach our children."

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The issuance of the guidelines, which go into effect Nov. 29, follow interim guidelines announced in February, a month into the administration of President Joe Biden and after he signed an executive order reversing the expansion of immigration enforcement that put many undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation under the previous Trump administration.

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The guidelines issued Thursday differ from those given in February as it emphasizes that immigration officials use discretion on a case-by-case basis.

During Biden's nine months in the White House, he has sought to undo actions put in place by the Trump administration and return to policies of the former President Barak Obama, with emphasis on rewriting immigration.

He has taken actions to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation as well as create pathways to citizenship, some of which have received push back from Republicans and legal challenges.

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Biden ran for president last year on the platform of building "a fair and humane" immigration system, but he has also been criticized by the left over his continuation of using Title 42 to expel migrants from the United States at the border over concerns of spreading COVID-19.

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An appeals court on Thursday suspended a federal judge's order that would have barred the Biden administration from using Title 42, which is responsible for barring tens of thousands of people a month entrance to the United States at the southern border.

The guidelines were also issued a day after Mayorkas said he will again try to terminate the Trump administration's so-called Remain in Mexico policy that forced thousands of immigration applicants to await their U.S. court dates in Mexico.

Mayorkas had attempted to terminate the program in June, but a judge ruled last month that the Biden administration must reinstate and enforce the policy "in good faith."

Sirine Shebaya, executive director of the National Immigration Project, chastised the Biden administration on Thursday, saying its new immigration guidelines do not go far enough while putting emphasis on crime.

"President Biden promised to create a more humane and just immigration system. What this requires is a fundamental transformation, not changes around the edges to the same detention and deportation machinery," Shebaya said in a statement. "While we appreciate the move away from broad categorical exclusions, the memo falls short of delivering what our communities have been asking for."

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