On February 18, 2021, Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tae Johnson released a new memorandum setting forth interim guidance for civil immigration enforcement and removal priorities. The new policies represent a significant departure from previous government practice and will likely impact thousands of immigrants not only in New Jersey but nationwide.
The 3 Arrest and Removal Priorities
Under the new guidelines, there are essentially three categories of noncitizens presumed to be priorities for enforcement and removal. They are respectively:
- National Security Threats: this includes individuals engaging in or suspected of engaging in terrorism, espionage, and those whose apprehension, arrest, or custody is otherwise necessary to protect the US
- Border Security Threats: individuals caught at the border or a port of entry while trying to enter illegally on or after November 1, 2020; or noncitizens not physically present in the US before November 1, 2020
- Public Safety Threats: noncitizens will be presumed to fall under this category if the noncitizen poses a threat to public safety and has been convicted of an aggravated felony or been convicted of an offense containing an element involving active participation in a criminal street gang, or is not younger than 16 years of age and intentionally participated in organized gang activity to further illegal activity of the gang
Note that the criteria above is listed only generally. Furthermore, these new policies are temporary orders until new enforcement guidelines are issued by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. While these priorities exclude a number of classes previously targeted by the Trump administration, their absence should in no way be interpreted as some sort of blanket immunity from investigation, detention, or prosecution. Noncitizens without status or individuals who fall under the inadmissibility or deportability provisions of the law are still subject to removal. However, the only difference is that individuals who fall within the aforementioned categories do not need pre-approval from upper management, as they are presumed to be priorities for enforcement. That being said, these new measures do reflect a more reasonable approach to enforcement and should afford a great number of noncitizens with immigration issues not involving the above three categories a little more breathing room to seek help and resolve their issues.
The above is general information only. It is not specific legal advice nor intended to create an attorney client relationship. If you need advice, please consult with an attorney.