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Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announces temporary guidelines for its enforcement and removal operations

March 02, 2021
Hon. Robert Vinikoor (Ret.)

On February 18, 2021 ICE implemented interim operating guidance that will temporarily govern its civil immigration enforcement and removal operations. Until Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas issues new enforcement guidelines, the interim guidelines will focus the agency’s civil immigration enforcement and removal resources on threats to national security, border security and public safety.

These interim changes appear to be the first step in President Biden’s intentions to overall immigration policy. The guidelines will refocus the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) priorities away from the zero-tolerance immigration policy of former President Trump and the use of its limited resources to enforce the nation’s immigration laws most impactfully and justly.

These instructions give field officers new priorities for arresting and deporting undocumented immigrants or other individuals who have violated the terms of their admission. ICE agents in the field will be required to obtain pre-approval from their superiors before arresting and detaining anyone who does not fall into one of the priority categories. The priority categories include:

      1. 1) recent border crossers after November 1, 2020;
      2. 2) an individual deemed a threat to national security; and
      3. 3) a criminal offender with an aggravated felony conviction.

It remains to be seen whether individuals with arrests or convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, simple assaults or other crime that are not considered aggravated felonies and are also not listed as priorities for enforcement will not be targeted. These narrower priorities will apply to arrests for immigrants being released from prison or jail as well as “at large” enforcement targeting individuals in their house and neighborhoods.

Given these new priorities, ICE officers will also be instructed to consider mitigating factors before making arrest such as whether the criminal offense was recent, how long of a jail or prison term the person served, and whether they have ties to U.S. citizen children or other family members.

Only time will tell how these new guidelines will affect individuals already under removal proceedings or under final orders of removal. If you have been recently arrested by ICE or placed under removal proceedings, you should consult with an attorney immediately to see whether it would be appropriate to request prosecutorial discretion or whether it would be possible to settle or dismiss the charges against you. The attorneys at Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C. would be happy to speak to you about these changes or any other immigration issue you may be facing. Please call 312-427-6163 to set up a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.

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