The Biden administration announced new directives on Sept. 30, requiring immigration enforcement agencies only to pursue undocumented immigrants who recently crossed into the United States or those who pose a public safety threat.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says it makes little sense to target 11 million noncitizens for arrest, especially those who have been in the U.S. for an extended period and make positive contributions to their communities.
New guidelines differ drastically from Trump-era rules
The new policy replaces interim provisions announced in February that a federal judge temporarily blocked in August. They are a sharp contrast to immigration enforcement under President Trump, who directed authorities to arrest anyone illegally in the country. Mayorkas outlined the major points of the new policy:
- Law enforcement can only target noncitizens who crossed into the U.S. after Nov. 1, 2020.
- They can pursue anyone deemed a national security threat or those engaged in “serious criminal activity.”
- Criminal activity is not defined as an aggravated felony but depends upon the “totality of facts and circumstances.”
- Anyone engaging in or suspected of terrorism or espionage is a priority for law enforcement.
- Noncitizens cannot be deported for exercising their First Amendment rights, such as participating in union activities or protests.
Immigration advocates are taking a wait-and-see approach
While welcoming limits on enforcement actions against undocumented immigrants, pro-immigration groups say they are wary due to the detention and deportation of 5,000 Haitians who crossed into Texas in recent weeks.
Advocates say the policy will only be as good as the results, and that it won’t mean much if detentions and deportations continue to rise, or human rights abuses continue to happen. However, they embraced the increased security for those who have been in the U.S. for a longer period.