On September 30, 2021, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued a long-awaited agency memo governing immigration law enforcement. The new guidelines apply to the enforcement branches of our government, namely, US Customs and Border Protection (which enforces the law along the border) and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (which enforces the law within the interior), as well as USCIS.
In a marked departure from previous policy, the memo realigns civil immigration priorities to focus on three main categories, as opposed to the Trump Administration’s practice of indiscriminately pursuing any and all removable individuals. Individuals who fall under the following groups are now more likely to be prosecuted for apprehension and removal:
Threats to National Security
This would include noncitizens engaged in or suspected of terrorism or espionage, or activities related to such
Threats to Public Safety
Individuals involved with serious criminal activity are likely to be deemed threats to public safety. A criminal incident, in and of itself, does not necessarily constitute such a threat. Officers are directed to conduct a careful analysis, considering the totality of facts and circumstances and weighing aggravating and mitigating factors.
Threats to Border Security
Noncitizens will be deemed priorities for removal who are apprehended at the border or port of entry while attempting to unlawfully enter the US; or if they are apprehended in the US after unlawfully entering after November 1, 2020.
While these categories still cut across large swaths of the undocumented population, they nevertheless target cognizable groups that are more likely to pose a danger to our system than individuals who have unfortunately been swept into the system who are good candidates for potential immigration reform legislation, ie., those with a long period of residence in the US, substantial ties, and no criminal record.
The new guidance is scheduled to go into effect November 29, 2021.