(CMC) — Amid deep concerns about the “targeted” deportations of Haitians and other Caribbean immigrants, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency says it is implementing interim operating guidance that will temporarily govern its civil immigration enforcement and removal operations.
ICE said it is doing so until US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas issues new enforcement guidelines for the department.
Mayorkas is expected to issue new enforcement guidelines in less than 90 days after consultation with department personnel and external stakeholders, ICE said.
It said its interim guidance will focus the agency’s civil immigration enforcement and removal resources on threats to national security, border security and public safety.
“The guidance defines which cases are presumed to present such threats and do not require prior approval,” ICE said. “The guidance also sets forth a pre-approval process for any civil immigration enforcement action that does not meet the presumption criteria.”
In addition, ICE said the guidance sets forth weekly reporting requirements “to ensure coordination and consistency and to inform the development of the secretary’s final enforcement guidelines”.
“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,” said ICE Acting Director Tae Johnson.
“Like every law enforcement agency at the local, state and federal level, we must prioritise our efforts to achieve the greatest security and safety impact,” he added. “Further, by implementing a system for obtaining prior approval before pursuing certain cases, and through regular reporting of civil immigration enforcement actions, we will better coordinate our efforts, achieve consistency in our operations, and inform the development of the secretary’s new enforcement guidelines. We look forward to working closely with the secretary throughout this process.”
The operating guidance defines which cases are presumed to present US national security, border security and public safety threats, and which cases do not carry such presumptions and, thus require, prior approval before pursuing.
ICE said Caribbean and other immigrants are presumed to present a threat to US national security “if they have engaged in or are suspected of terrorism or espionage, or if their apprehension is otherwise necessary to protect our national security”.
Caribbean and other immigrants are presumed to be a border security enforcement priority “if they are apprehended while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States on or after November 1, 2020, or if they were not physically present in the United States before November 1, 2020,” ICE said.
Additionally, ICE said individuals are presumed to be a threat to public safety if, for example, they have been convicted of an aggravated felony or engaged in certain activity as part of a criminal gang or transnational criminal organisation, and there is reason to believe they currently pose a threat.
In evaluating whether Caribbean and other immigrants pose a threat to public safety, ICE said officers and agents are to consider the “extensiveness, seriousness and recency of any criminal activity, as well as mitigating factors, including, but not limited to, personal and family circumstances, health and medical factors, ties to the community, and evidence of rehabilitation”.
ICE said its prioritisation of individuals with aggravated felony convictions is “consistent with Congressional intent in creating that distinct category of offenses”.
“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,” the immigration enforcement agency said.
It said its interim operating guidance requires enforcement personnel to review cases on “an individualised basis, in accordance with the law, and encourages coordination between in-the-field personnel and agency leadership”.
ICE said the issuance of the 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”.