In a major reversal of Trump administration immigration enforcement policy, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Tuesday that federal agents would no longer be permitted to arrest people in or near courthouses for most immigration violations, reports NPR.
The decision comes as the White House announced that a critic of the former administration’s policies would be named to head the Immigration sand Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE).
President Joe Biden said he would nominate Ed Gonzalez, the sheriff of Texas’ most populous county, to serve as ICE director, reports the Wall Street Journal. Gonzalez, who has served as Harris County sheriff since 2017, ended a partnership that year with ICE—the Department of Homeland Security agency that is charged with arresting and deporting immigrants—that authorized local officials to enforce federal immigration laws in the county. Gonzalez also criticized immigration raids under the Trump administration in a tweet in July 2019.
“I do not support #ICERaids that threaten to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of whom do not represent a threat to the U.S.,” Gonzalez wrote that month, when the raids occurred. “The focus should always be on immediate safety threats.”
Gonzalez previously served on the Houston City Council and was appointed mayor pro-tem in 2012.
On the withdrawal courthouse arrests, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said such arrests interfered with the administration of justice and public safety.
The previous policy, formalized in 2018, authorized ICE to enter federal, state and local courthouses to arrest people who were there for reasons unrelated to their immigration status.
The directive applies to agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which both fall within DHS. According to DHS, arrests in or near courthouses will only be permitted if “(1) it involves a national security matter, (2) there is an imminent risk of death, violence, or physical harm to any person, (3) it involves hot pursuit of an individual who poses a threat to public safety, or (4) there is an imminent risk of destruction of evidence material to a criminal case.