Illegal immigrants who are convicted of assault or driving while intoxicated are among those who wouldn’t be deported under new guidelines from the Biden administration, the White House confirmed Monday.
“The priority for the enforcement of immigration law will be on those who are posing a national security threat, of course a public safety threat, and on recent arrivals. Nobody is saying that DUIs or assault are acceptable behavior, and those arrested for such activity should be tried and sentenced as appropriate by local law enforcement. But we are talking about the prioritization of who is going to be deported from the country,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.
Psaki was responding to a question about reporting that cited internal emails from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a federal immigration agency inside the Department of Homeland Security, outlining new guidelines that will tell agents to not seek deportations for aliens convicted of crimes like assault, fraud, and drug-based crimes.
ICE told The Epoch Times via email: “Then-Acting Secretary Pekoske’s January 20 memo makes clear that a person who poses a public safety threat is not only someone who has committed an aggravated felony. The commission of an aggravated felony is the most conclusive proof of a public safety threat. ICE retains its unlimited discretion to evaluate any conduct in defining a public safety threat. The January 20 memorandum is clear on this point.”
Biden’s administration sent out a memorandum on Jan. 20 halting most deportations for 100 days. Then-Acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske said in the memo to staff members that the pause would “enable focusing the Department’s resources where they are most needed.”
“The United States faces significant operational challenges at the southwest border as it is confronting the most serious global public health crisis in a century,” he wrote. “In light of those unique circumstances, the Department must surge resources to the border in order to ensure safe, legal and orderly processing, to rebuild fair and effective asylum procedures that respect human rights and due process, to adopt appropriate public health guidelines and protocols, and to prioritize responding to threats to national security, public safety, and border security.”
The department would prioritize illegal immigrants engaged in or suspected of terrorism or espionage, apprehended while trying to illegally enter the United States on or after Nov. 1, 2020, and aliens convicted of an aggravated felony.
The order effectively suspended 85 percent of all criminal alien deportations, Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies told The Epoch Times.
A federal judge in Texas blocked the order and extended the stay on Jan. 29 for two weeks. The next hearing in State of Texas v. the United States of America et. al is set for Feb. 19.
Federal immigration law allows the United States to deport illegal aliens convicted of crimes, including the crime of being illegally in the country.
Biden has worked to enact an overhaul of the immigration system, signing several executive orders on Jan. 20 and three more on Feb. 2.
The new orders seek in part to loosen the criteria for asylum, reverse the Trump administration’s public charge rule, create a task force for new Americans, develop a strategy to address “irregular migration across the southern border,” and create a task force to reunify any remaining families that were separated during the previous administration.