The Biden administration set forth new instructions to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) field officers restricting the causes for initiating deportation.  In accordance with interim guidance measures issued by the President, ICE agents have been explicitly directed to focus only on arresting immigrants who pose a threat to national security due to terrorism or espionage, public safety concerns, or those who illegally crossed a U.S. border after November 1, 2020.  The enforcement priorities signify a pivotal departure from the Trump administration’s indiscriminately fervid process of conducting immigration arrests.

Notably, ICE Agents will now be required to get prior approval before apprehending anyone who falls outside of the stated priorities.  The guidance is effective immediately and will remain in place until the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issues new, more long-term, guidelines after consulting with agency officials.  This is projected to take place within 90 days.

White House Press Secretary noted that there will be a prioritization of deportations for undocumented individuals deemed a public safety threat, which refers to individuals with “aggravated felony convictions” over drug-based crimes and violent crimes, including but not limited to assaults.

Within the memo, ICE officials have been instructed to review case files of individuals currently detained and that they will be considering several factors in addition to criminal history.  Immigration Attorney Edward Shulman weighed in on these new ICE directives, stating that it was a positive first step.  Shulman highlighted the importance of ICE employing a thoughtful approach when considering deportation which should include mitigating factors, including the detainee’s health status and medical issues, their personal and family circumstances, their community ties, their history of rehabilitative efforts, and the potential immigration relief to which they could avail themselves.