WASHINGTON – The Biden Administration issued new guidelines Thursday to immigration officers that say that being an undocumented person should “not alone be the basis” of being deported.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in statement that the department will focus their resources on apprehending and removing undocumented immigrants who are a threat to the national security, public safety and border security of the United States.
“We are guided by the knowledge that there are individuals in our country who have been here for generations and contributed to our country’s well-being, including those who have been on the frontline in the battle against COVID, lead congregations of faith, and teach our children,” Mayorkas said in a statement.
“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.”
The guideline will go into effect on Nov. 29.
Mayorkas noted in the guidelines that undocumented immigrants who are apprehended at the border or at a port of entry trying to unlawfully enter the U.S. would be considered a threat to border security and could be deported under the new guidelines. The guidelines also note that an undocumented person apprehended in the U.S. after illegally entering the U.S. after Nov. 1, 2020, could be subject to deportation.
Prior to the implementation of the new policies, Mayorkas outlined that there will be extensive training for immigration officers. Mayorkas also noted that there will be a review process on the enforcement decisions of immigration personnel thought the first 90 days that the directives have been implemented.
The new guidelines come as Congress has not been able to pass legislation that would create a pathway to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
Roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants currently live in the U.S.
Democrats on Capitol Hill attempted to include a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, farmworkers and essential workers in the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, which was shot down by the Senate parliamentarian. A second attempt to include immigration in the package was also shot down.
Some immigration activists said they will be watching to see whether the new policy will be implemented correctly, while also expressing disappointment that migrants coming to the United States from the southern border will likely not be covered by this policy.
"So much of what we're going to be watching is going to be in the next couple of months, in terms of how this is going to be implemented in local field offices, and what type of accountability measures are going to be put in place," Jacinta Gonzalez, senior campaign organizer at Mijente, said in a call with reporters.
She said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement has gone against DHS leadership in the past when implementing policies, noting that at times ICE, as well as border patrol, have used violence against immigrants.
Gonzalez, and other immigration advocates, specifically noted the incident where border patrol officials chased Haitian migrants on horses earlier this month.
"There is no humane way to prioritize who is targeted for immigration enforcement detention or deportation, where that leads to separation of people from their loved ones and even put lives at risk," said Stacy Suh, program director of Detention Watch Network. "So we urge the fight in administration to change course to bring justice and fairness to the immigration system."
Reach Rebecca Morin at Twitter @RebeccaMorin_