Biden Administration Set to Release New Guidelines for ICE that Could Reduce Arrests and Deportations

According to a report from The Texas Tribune, President Biden is set to unveil new guidelines for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents that reorient the agency’s policies away from harsh and aggressive immigration enforcement. Here, our Los Angeles deportation defense attorney explains the most important things you should know about the Biden Administration’s proposed changes to ICE policy.

Preliminary Guidance: De-Emphasize Arrest/Deportation for Minor Criminal Offenses

Under the Trump Administration, ICE was given wide discretion to use aggressive immigration enforcement tactics, including carrying out mass raids and targeting people for minor criminal offenses. On a preliminary basis, the Biden Administration is now rolling out a new set of internal guidelines that will shift the federal agency’s priorities away from arrest and deportation, particularly for minor issues.

According to an internal draft memo seen by reporters at The Texas Tribune, individual ICE agents will no longer have the authority to seek people outside of jails or prisons without receiving approval from higher level officials within the agency. The memo apparently states that the agents would first need to demonstrate that such action would amount to “an appropriate allocation of limited resources.” Although this may sound like a complex and highly technical administrative matter, the real-world effects could be significant. The agency may scale back arrests and deportations.

The Policy Change Represents a Sharp Reversal from the Trump Administration

Under President Biden, the agency appears to be shifting towards a policy of taking enforcement action against those deemed to be a “public safety threat.” Without a conviction on aggravated felony charges or other evidence of serious misconduct, it is very difficult to justify labelling an undocumented immigrant as a public safety threat. The Texas Tribune reports that the agency’s Acting Director Tae Johnson told senior members of the staff that an undocumented immigrant should only be considered a public safety threat if they have:

  • A violent criminal record;
  • A well-documented affiliation with a dangerous gang; or
  • A history of serious aggravated felonies, such as sexual abuse or child abuse.

If the policy is carried out as reported by the news organizations, this represents a dramatic shift from the Trump Administration’s enforcement strategies. Under the Trump Administration, aggressive action was taken against many undocumented immigrants, including those with minor criminal history, such as low level marijuana possession, intoxicated driving charges, and juvenile violations. Of course, this is all still a preliminary change. Close attention should be paid to ICE’s priorities and actions in the coming weeks and months.

Get Help From a Deportation Defense Lawyer in Southern California

At Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, our Los Angeles immigration attorneys have the skills, experience, and tenacity to help clients effectively identify and raise all applicable deportation defenses. If you or your loved one is facing removal from the country, we can help. Get in touch with us now for a completely private consultation. We represent people in Los Angeles and throughout the rest of Southern California.

Josh Goldstein
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