New Biden rules would limit arrests and deportations of migrants | World news
By BEN FOX, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) – In the face of bipartisan criticism over its approach to immigration, the Biden administration on Thursday announced new rules that require authorities to prosecute only migrants who have recently entered the country without permission or are considered a threat to public safety.
The new guidelines replace provisional rules released in February and blocked by a federal judge in August in a lawsuit brought by Texas and Louisiana. They are breaking away from a more aggressive approach to immigration law enforcement under former President Donald Trump, who early in his presidency ordered authorities to apprehend anyone illegally in the country.
The release comes as President Joe Biden has been criticized by allies for his reliance on a Trump-era public health authority to quickly deport migrants encountered at the US-Mexico border while facing to Republican criticism that it has not done enough to counter a surge in the number of migrants seeking entry into the country. His administration has deported at least 5,000 Haitians who crossed the US-Mexico border in Del Rio, Texas in recent weeks.
Department of Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters the new policy was based on the fact that the United States cannot go after everyone in the country without legal status and should not give it a try because so many “have contributed to members of our communities for years.”
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Authorities will be asked to focus on non-citizens who have crossed recently, defined as after November 1, 2020, or who have determined they are a threat due to “serious criminal activity.” Homeland Security includes United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Border Patrol.
Unlike the provisional rules, criminal activity is not limited to the category known in legal terms as an aggravated crime but will depend on the “totality of the facts and circumstances,” Mayorkas said.
“We demand and frankly hold our workforce accountable, critically hold our workforce to exercise their judgment, their law enforcement judgment,” said the secretary.
Proponents of strict immigration enforcement criticized the interim guidelines, which were intended to be similar in intent to the newly published rules, as they were seen as a top-down approach and preventing low-level arrests that could lead to leads investigating larger cases or helping to curb illegal immigration.
Mayorkas said it made little sense to prosecute the estimated 11 million people in the country without legal status, even if the United States had the capacity to enforce the law to do so.
“They contribute to the well-being of our country and justice demands that we exercise our discretion accordingly,” he said. “The fact that an individual is a revocable non-national should not in itself be the basis for enforcement action against him. “
The Trump administration has taken hundreds of steps to restrict both legal and illegal immigration, including a zero-tolerance policy on border crossings that has resulted in the forced separation of thousands of families and forcing asylum seekers to wait for their file to be processed in Mexico.
Ultimately, the total number of expulsions was higher under President Barack Obama’s first term, who adopted similar enforcement priorities to Biden, than under Trump. This was in part due to a lack of cooperation from many cities and states whose leaders opposed Trump’s immigration policies.
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