DHS Secretary: New immigration priorities will consider ‘totality’ of migrants

Border Report

A migrant's military service to be considered prior to deportations

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, seen Sept. 20, 2021, in Del Rio, Texas, with U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz, on Thursday announced new immigration enforcement rules. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — As the Biden administration faces criticism for the repatriation of Haitians from Del Rio, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Thursday released new immigration enforcement priorities that he said will make it fairer and more inclusive for those seeking asylum.

The new “Guidelines for the Enforcement of Civil Immigration Law,” requires a total assessment of the migrant — where and when they came to the United States, why, and most importantly how much of a public threat they are. It also must consider whether the migrant served in the U.S. military or performed other public service roles while in this country.

“For the first time, our guidelines will, in the pursuit of public safety, require an assessment of the individual and take into account the totality of the facts and circumstances,” Mayorkas said in a statement.

These migrants were released by DHS on Sept. 19, 2021, in Del Rio, Texas, and permitted to board a bus bound for San Antonio. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

Teachers, front-line workers and those with longstanding ties in American communities are to be considered for their contributions to society, Mayorkas said.

“In exercising our discretion, we are guided by the fact that the majority of undocumented noncitizens who could be subject to removal have been contributing members of our communities for years,” Mayorkas wrote in a seven-page memo on the new law sent Thursday to U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Troy Miller, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Tae Johnson, and several DHS leaders.

“Including those who have been on the frontline in the battle against COVID, lead congregations of faith, and teach our children. As we strive to provide them with a path to status, we will not work in conflict by spending resources seeking to remove those who do not pose a threat and, in fact, make our Nation stronger,” he said.

We will not work in conflict by spending resources seeking to remove those who do not pose a threat and, in fact, make our Nation stronger.”

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas

Noncitizens who pose a threat to public safety and border security are a priority for removal from the United States, under the new guidelines, which for the first time also consider individual assessments of migrants to get a better picture of whether they should be allowed to stay, or not.

“The fact an individual is a removable noncitizen will not alone be the basis of an enforcement action against them. The Department’s personnel are to use their discretion and focus the Department’s enforcement resources in a more targeted way,” DHS said in a statement.

Mayorkas came up with this plan after months of meeting with officials within DHS, as well as ICE. And he touted it will provide for better “prosecutorial discretion.”

A line of mostly Haitian migrants board a bus in Del Rio, Texas, on Sept. 20, 2021. They have been granted conditional release by DHS. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

The new guidelines prohibit a noncitizen’s race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, gender identity, mental impairments, or political affiliations from preventing their case for migration to go forward.

And it requires that public service, such as the military, to be considered when evaluating each immigration case.

That’s something that U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas, who represents the South Texas border and has been a champion for deported veterans says “was long overdue.”

“Glad to see Democrats stepping up to the plate in protecting U.S. veterans from deportation,” Gonzalez told Border Report.

“The new guidelines will enable our Department to most effectively accomplish our law enforcement mission and, at the same time, advance our country’s well-being by recognizing the invaluable contributions of millions of individuals who are part of the fabric of our communities,” he said.

Migrant advocates reacted Thursday afternoon with measured caution.

Jacinta Gonzalez, a senior campaign organizer for the group Mijente said they will be monitoring DHS closely to ensure these guidelines are followed and changes to ICE operations occur.

“So much of what we’re going to be watching in the next couple months will be how this will be implemented in local field offices and what kind of accountability will be put in place,” Gonzalez said during a national call with media.

“How is it really going to be impacted by ICE agents who have a history of violence and violating peoples’ rights?” she said.

“The devil really is in the details. There is a lot we need to continue to focus on and watch to see which direction this agency goes from this point,” said Sonia Lin from the We Are Home campaign.

“Today what we’re seeing is a harmful exclusion of immigrants of migrants from Haiti and other migrants at the border,” said Sirene Shebaya, executive director of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild. “Glaring omissions need to be addressed urgently.”

The new law takes effect on Nov. 29, and replaces previous immigration priorities established by Johnson in February.

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