Feb 18, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden administration unveils guidance to curb ICE enforcement

ICE agents

Photo: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents will now focus on arresting unauthorized immigrants who pose a national security threat — a shift from the Trump era, when agents had broad discretion over which immigrants were targeted.

Why it matters: The new interim guidance is in effect starting Thursday, and comes as the Biden administration tries to rein in the wide latitude given to ICE under the Trump administration. The rule is in line with an executive order that President Biden signed shortly after taking office.

  • The agency will prioritize arrests and deportations for people who either engaged in, or are suspected to have engaged in, activities like terrorism or espionage.
  • The priorities also include people who are a threat to public safety and have convictions for violent crimes or gang-related crimes.
  • People apprehended trying to cross the U.S. border or at a port of entry on or after November 1, 2020 also fall under the new priorities.

The agency will be "asking officers and agents to proceed deliberately" when arresting people who fall outside the three priorities, a DHS official said.

  • The official said the new rule will help ICE "accomplish its mission in the most efficient way. Not by reducing enforcement, but by focusing it on the most pressing parts."

What's next: The final rule, which will supersede the interim guidance, is expected in about 3 months, per a DHS official.

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