The Biden administration, complying with a federal court ruling, suspended an order that restricted arrests of undocumented immigrants to those deemed a threat to public safety or national security.
Earlier this month, a federal judge in Texas ruled that the policy limiting arrests was illegal, siding with Republican officials in Louisiana and Texas who argued the Biden administration lacked the authority to issue the directive. The court order leaves Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents with no clear guidance on who they can, and cannot, deport.
DHS said it “strongly disagrees” with the court decision and plans to appeal it.
“During the appeals process, ICE agents and officers will make enforcement decisions on a case-by-case basis in a professional and responsible manner, informed by their experience as law enforcement officials and in a way that best protects against the greatest threats to the homeland,” the department said in a statement.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced the policy last year, arguing that being in the country illegally should not be the sole basis for arrest. The rules generally protected undocumented immigrants from arrest who had not committed serious crimes.
The removal of any guidelines means nearly all of the country’s estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants could be open to arrest, although how agents will decide who to target is unclear.
“The problem with moving away from priorities is, there is no standardization, no rhyme or reason,” Karen Tumlin, founder of immigrant rights group Justice Action Center, told the New York Times. “A person here 20 years who is the parent of U.S. citizen kids could be put in removal proceedings, someone dropping off their child at school who has never committed a crime could be arrested.”