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Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced Wednesday that it conducted a national operation focusing on removing illegal immigrants who had been deported but then re-entered the U.S.
ICE said that its Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) nabbed 119 illegal immigrants between June 1 and June 7 who had re-entered after a prior deportation. The agency said in a release that it focused on picking up those who had been removed within the last five years — and who also meet the narrow priorities set by the Biden administration.
Those priorities were rolled out last year and restricts agents to three categories of illegal immigrant: recent border crossers, national security threats and aggravated felons or public safety threats.
ICE said that of those arrested, 110 had prior convictions for crimes including burglary, robbery, child molestation and drug trafficking.
“ICE is committed to the safe and effective enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws as our officers fulfill our important public safety mission,” acting ICE Director Tae Johnson said in a statement. “This operation highlights the tremendous efforts of our officers to apply an organized and methodical approach to the identification, location, and arrest of noncitizens who are national security, public safety, or border security threats.”
The narrowed priorities, first rolled out last year, caused pushback from Republicans who say they are too narrow and led to a dramatic reduction in deportations and arrests of those in the country illegally.
In FY 2021, which included the final months of the Trump administration, ICE arrested 74,082 noncitizens in FY 2021, and deported 59,011. Of the 74,082 arrests between October 2020 and October 2021, only 47,755 took place after Feb. 18 when the new priorities were implemented. Of removals, just 28,677 of the 59,011 deportations took place after Feb. 18.
In FY 2020, there were 103,603 arrests and 185,884 removals. In FY 2019 the agency arrested 143,099 illegal immigrants and deported 267,258.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has indicated that the lower removals and arrests are a feature, not a bug, of the new policy.
“We have fundamentally changed immigration enforcement in the interior,” Mayorkas declared in an interview with CBS News in January. “For the first time ever, our policy explicitly states that a non-citizen’s unlawful presence in the United States will not, by itself, be a basis for the initiation of an enforcement action.
However, just days after the latest operation was conducted, a federal judge in Texas barred the administration from using the priorities, ruling that the guidance “provides a new basis on which aliens may avoid being subject to the enforcement of immigration law.”
It is therefore a rule and subject also to the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and therefore subject to certain conditions, like a notice-and-comment period. He also said that the government fell short in reconciling the guidance with federal law, which demands the detention in certain situations.
He said the government “offers an implausible construction of federal law that flies in the face of the limitations imposed by Congress.”
“True, the Executive Branch has case-by-case discretion to abandon immigration enforcement as to a particular individual, he said. “This case, however, does not involve individualized decisionmaking. Instead, this case is about a rule that binds Department of Homeland Security officials in a generalized, prospective manner—all in contravention of Congress’s detention mandate.”