BOSTON (AP) — The Biden administration, in response to a Texas federal court ruling, has suspended an order that had directed funds for the arrest and deportation of immigrants to those deemed a threat to public safety. and national security.
The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement on Saturday it would abide by this month’s decision, even if it “strongly disagrees” and will appeal.
Immigrant advocates and experts said Monday that the suspension of Biden’s order will only sow fear among immigrant communities.
Many living illegally in the country will now fear leaving their homes for fear that they will be detained even if they continue to abide by the law, said Steve Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law at Cornell University.
Prioritizing who to arrest and deport is a necessity, he said. “We just don’t have enough ICE agents to arrest and prosecute anyone who violates our immigration law,” Yale-Loehr said.
The Texas case revolves around: a memorandum to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, issued last September, directing immigration agencies to focus their enforcement efforts on those who posed a threat to national security or public safety or who have recently entered the US illegally.
The approach was a departure from President Donald Trump’s administration, when immigration agencies were given wide discretion over who to arrest, detain and deport, leaving many immigrants without legal status. change their daily routines to evade detectionsuch as avoiding driving or even taking sanctuary in churches and other places that are generally off limits to immigration authorities.
But on June 10, U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton annulled southern Texas Mayorkas’ memosiding with Republican state officials in Texas and Louisiana who argued that the Biden administration had no authority to issue such a directive.
In response, immigration and customs enforcement officers will make enforcement decisions “on a case-by-case basis in a professional and responsible manner, based on their experience as law enforcement officers and in a manner that best protects against the greatest threats to the homeland,” the Department of State said. Homeland Security in a statement Saturday.
How the court’s ruling will play out in cities and towns across the country remains to be seen, lawyers say.
Sarang Sekhavat, political director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, the largest such group in New England, said the outcome likely rests on the approach taken by local ICE field offices.
Some ICE offices may choose to go after a wider range of immigrants, while others will continue to focus on looking for those who pose the greatest threat, he said.
“This takes away any form of centralized guidance,” Sekhavat said. “What this does is really in the hands of the local field office and how they plan to go about enforcement.”
Nationwide, ICE officials arrested more than 74,000 immigrants and expelled more than 59,000 in the fiscal year ending September, according to the agency most recent annual report. That’s less than the nearly 104,000 arrests and 186,000 deportations in the previous fiscal year. according to ICE data.
ICE spokesmen in Washington and the Boston field office, which covers the six-state New England region, declined to comment Monday, as did officials at the ICE field office in Los Angeles.
But in a June interview with The Associated Press conducted before the Texas court ruling, Thomas Giles, chief of ICE’s LA office, said nine out of 10 on-the-ground immigration arrests involve people who have been arrested. convicted of crimes.
He said the Biden government’s priorities have not brought a huge change for the region, as the agents were already targeting people with criminal convictions or previous deportations.
It required them to weigh aggravating and mitigating factors and make more detailed assessments of cases, he said, but the focus remained constant.
“We are here to improve public safety,” Giles said.
Associated Press reporter Amy Taxin in Los Angeles contributed to this report.