The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency is preparing to issue new guidelines to agents this week that could sharply curb arrests and deportations, as the Biden administration attempts to assert more control over an agency afforded wide latitude under President Donald Trump, reports the Washington Post. Agents will no longer seek to deport immigrants for crimes such as driving under the influence and assault, and will focus instead on national security threats, recent border crossers and people completing prison and jail terms for aggravated felony convictions. Agents seeking to arrest fugitives outside of jails and prisons will need prior approval from the agency’s director in Washington justifying the decision while explaining how the enforcement action “constitutes an appropriate allocation of limited resources,” according to a draft memo circulating at the agency.
Frustrated ICE officials say the proposed changes will take away agents’ discretion and severely constrain their ability to arrest and deport criminals and that anyone unlawfully in the United States will still be subject to arrest, including people who committed crimes and were released before the memo was issued. Crimes such as sex offenses remain a top priority. John Sandweg, an acting director of ICE during the Obama administration, said the preliminary guidance was a good step toward improving the agency’s public image and the quality of its work. “No one judges the FBI by the number of arrests they make. They judge them by the quality of arrests,” Sandweg said. Critics counter that the changes will allow thousands of people with criminal histories to remain in the United States and to possibly reoffend.