ICE has released interim guidance for civil immigration enforcement and removal priorities. For the most part, it is good news. The priorities are:
- National security (related primarily to terrorism, espionage and other threats to national security),
- Border security (defined as those apprehended while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States on or after Nov. 1, 2020, or who were not physically present in the United States before Nov. 1, 2020), and
- Public safety (defined as those who (1) pose a threat to public safety and (2) have an “aggravated felony” conviction, have a conviction for certain gang-related offenses, or are at least 16 and have “intentionally participated” in certain gang-related activity).
The ICE guidance includes both positive developments compared to recent practices, as well as provisions that may lead to unjust results. On the positive side, the guidance recognizes the importance of prosecutorial discretion and of the consideration of individualized factors in enforcement decisions, lays out targeted priorities, requires preapproval for enforcement actions against individuals who fall outside those priorities, and prohibits “collateral” arrests during enforcement actions.
This is an important step toward a more humane enforcement system than was seen during the previous administration. It looks like the focus will now be on criminals as it should be.