February 22, 2021

We Are Home Campaign Responds to ICE’s Interim Guidance on Immigration Enforcement and Removals

The Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Tae Johnson, has issued “Interim Guidance: Civil Immigration Enforcement and Removal Priorities,” a memo intended to guide ICE officers in their discretionary enforcement decisions until DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issues new enforcement guidelines for the agency. The new guidelines from Secretary Mayorkas are expected in the next 90 days.

The interim guidelines reduce the wide net cast by former President Trump, who in his first days in office issued an Executive Order making all unauthorized immigrants priorities for enforcement, unleashing four years of unchecked abuse of immigrant communities by ICE and CBP officers. The priority categories in the memo are also narrower than the overbroad priority categories issued by DHS in 2014 under the Obama Administration.

However, the guidelines fail to realize the promise of a true reorientation of immigration enforcement. Nathaly Arriola, Director of the We Are Home campaign, stated: 

“The new guidelines, if followed, should reduce the number of people targeted by ICE. However, they continue to rely on flawed and racist frameworks that stigmatize all immigrants as potential threats to national security or public safety, with vague and sweeping criteria for identifying such “threats” that will disproportionately harm Black and Brown immigrants, including Muslims. The guidelines also fail to make an explicit commitment to providing meaningful access to asylum for recent border crossers. We hope that Secretary Mayorkas will reconsider the agency’s approach. Rather than doubling-down on the punitive approach of the past three decades, the new Administration must build a fair, humane, and functional system that favors the use of prosecutorial discretion, facilitates compliance, and respects all people regardless of race, religion, or birthplace.”

Last week, the We Are Home campaign and more than 100 partner organizations sent a letter to Secretary Mayorkas urging DHS to implement seven key reforms to enforcement in the next 100 days in order to reduce the harms of detention and deportation:

  • Affirmative consideration of release for all people who are currently in ICE custody;
  • Immediate halt to deportations to Haiti and proactive grants of stays of removal;
  • Immediate closure of detention facilities and an end to the use of private prisons and state and local jails;
  • Termination of 287(g), Secure Communities, and ICE detainers;
  • Closure of hundreds of thousands of pending immigration court cases;
  • Flipping the framework of prosecutorial discretion so the focus is on relief and not punishment; and
  • Welcoming of asylum seekers at the southern border without detention.