U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has updated the instructions it gives to field officers to outline new priorities for arresting and deporting undocumented immigrants, according to three Department of Homeland Security officials.
New top priorities for the agency include anyone suspected of engaging in terrorism or espionage, aggravated felons or those convicted of a gang-related offense, as well as anyone who crossed the border illegally after Nov. 1, 2020.
ICE agents in the field will be required to obtain pre-approval from their superiors before arresting and detaining anyone who does not fall into those categories. But the new guidance does not bar anyone in the country illegally from being deported.
The new guidelines do not change asylum policies, and applicants will still have the same opportunities to make their cases. Still, the Biden administration has kept in place a Trump-era "expulsion" policy that has largely limited humanitarian options for asylum seekers.
Under a new agency memo, ICE officials will review case files for people currently detained. One official said Thursday that ICE will consider a "variety of factors" in reviewing cases, including a detainee's health, ties to the community and experience with the criminal justice system.
The interim priority order will be in place for 90 days and will apply to all ICE arrests and custody decisions, one official said.
Similar priorities that focused on criminal activity and national security were used during the Obama administration. Those were pulled back by former President Donald Trump who's pledge to deport "millions" of undocumented immigrants ultimately went unfulfilled.
The new priorities come as the Biden administration attempts an overhaul of immigration policy. Those efforts hit their first road block last month when a federal judge in Texas blocked Biden's attempt to institute a 100-day pause on deportations while the agency reviewed and updated its guidance.
Judge Drew Tipton ruled that the move violated federal immigration law and determined that the agency could continue to review and update its enforcement policies without the pause on removals. A hearing in the case is expected Friday.