What are the New ICE Guidelines Regarding Immigrants Convicted of Sex Crimes?

February 16, 2021

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will be issuing new guidelines for their agents; this recent information is based on internal emails and memos obtained by The Washington Post. According to sources, the previous administration allowed ICE a wide latitude, and the new administration is trying to assert more control. Though the revised plans are not final, provisional instructions that were sent to senior ICE officials may indicate a significant shift in procedures going forward. Some ICE officials believe this will impact how effectively they can arrest and deport criminals. Those with immigration issues are urged to reach out to a knowledgeable immigration lawyer for assistance.

What are the Proposed Changes?

Going forward, the priority will focus more on deporting immigrants who recently crossed the border, are completing jail/prison terms for aggravated felonies, and are national security threats. ICE agents will not be looking to deport immigrants for less serious crimes, such as assault, fraud tax crimes, and driving under the influence. These new guidelines have not yet been finalized.

The former head of ICE stated that on February 3, the agency canceled one of their programs, Operation Talon, which targeted illegal immigrants convicted of sex crimes, including child molestation. The Biden administration allegedly did not make this decision, and it may have been set aside until further instructions are given. Another official said that Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has been conducting ongoing sex offense investigations involving both U.S. citizens and non-citizens.

What is the Mission of ICE?

Back in 2003, the former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and U.S. Customs Service merged and created ICE. This agency has more than 400 offices around the world, and over 20,000 personnel. Their HSI component handles the investigation and dismantling of terrorist organizations and criminal groups that try to abuse U.S. customs and immigration laws. HSI also conducts federal criminal investigations into illegal border crossings of people, money, and contraband. ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) component targets public safety threats from convicted criminals and people who violated U.S. immigration laws. It also includes people who enter the country illegally and foreign fugitives. The ERO handles immigration law enforcement, such as identifying and arresting suspects, detention, and supervised releases.

What Will Happen Next?

The draft guidelines are being reviewed by the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary. Still, ICE officials have said that sex crime offenses are still a top priority, and that anyone who is in the United States unlawfully may be subject to arrest. The internal memo also revealed the following:

  • Agents attempting to arrest fugitives who are not in prisons or jails will have to obtain prior approval from Washington. The agents will need to justify their decisions and explain why their proposed action is an appropriate use of resources.
  • Individuals will not be considered public safety threats when an aggravated felony is more than 10 years old and is not the main reason for a recent arrest.
  • Immigrants will be deemed public safety threats should they have institutional records of violent behavior. Other criteria for public safety threats include aggravated felony convictions, thoroughly documented gang affiliations, major drug offenses, child abuse, rape, and murder.

What Do Other Supporters Say?

A former ICE acting director believes that the preliminary guidance would help improve ICE’s quality of work and public image. He added that narrower priorities would help the agents get dangerous people off the streets. According to the former acting director, the previous administration was focused more on the quantity, not quality, of deportations.

Biden administration officials claim that they plan to continue prioritizing public safety threats and national security. While doing this, they will also be working to prevent the deportation of people who do not fall into the more selective categories. Officials also stressed that this preliminary guidance specifies that people in the U.S. illegally are still subject to deportation if a case is made for their removal by ICE officers.

What Do Other Opponents Say?

Opponents of the new guidelines argue that thousands of immigrants with criminal histories will be able to stay in the United States, allowing them opportunities to commit more crimes. Through the Biden administration, the DHS attempted to enact a 100-day moratorium on deportations, but this was blocked by a judge’s ruling in Texas. Some believe that a deportation pause could put Americans at risk by keeping criminals, such as aggravated felons and alleged terrorists in the country. The Texas judge was directed to discard the entire memo, and this could impact the new guidelines. A former acting ICE director also claimed that forcing agents to obtain approval before making arrests would reduce enforcement dramatically.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at the MC Law Group, LLC Protect Clients’ Rights

If you need legal guidance with any type of immigration issue, contact the experienced Philadelphia immigration lawyers at the MC Law Group, LLC. For a free consultation, call us at 215-496-0690 or complete our online form. With offices in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout the tri-state area, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and nationwide.