The Biden administration published on Thursday, Sept. 30, a series of guidelines on how border and immigration agencies should proceed with illegal immigrants, among which is determined that the focus of arrests and deportations should be those “non-citizens” who present a “threat to national security or public safety.”

The secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, issued a memorandum in which he proposes a series of drastic changes on how to proceed with illegal immigration in which the vast majority of immigrants will neither be arrested nor deported, unless they have serious criminal records, criminal conduct or have participated or intend to participate in terrorist acts.

In his letter, Mayorkas argues that the government has the authority to decide who will be deported.

“It is well established in the law that federal government officials have broad discretion to decide who should be subject to arrest, detainers, removal proceedings, and the execution of removal orders,” Mayorkas wrote.

From the secretary’s perspective, the more than eleven million illegal immigrants in the country who are eligible for deportation “have been contributing members of our communities for years.”

Among them are teachers, farmworkers, doctors, etc., who are already part of society, Mayorkas said, adding that there have been different attempts to grant this group of people citizenship for many years.

“We do not have the resources to apprehend and seek the removal of every one of these non-citizens,” read the memo. “Therefore, we need to exercise our discretion and determine whom to prioritize for immigration enforcement action.”

Among the two priority groups, the secretary specified those who are a threat to national security, individuals suspected of or planning to engage in terrorist or espionage activities, and threats to public safety—persons engaging in criminal conduct.

For all cases, Mayorkas raises several factors that aggravate the status of individuals who fall into these two categories and elements that diminish the status. 

For example, among the aggravating factors, he mentions the seriousness of the crime, the degree of harm inflicted on the victims, the sophistication of the crime, prior convictions, and the use of firearms or weapons.

And among those mitigating factors are the possible advanced or young age of the immigrant, whether they have family in the country, the length of time they have lived in the United States, military service, and the possibility of receiving humanitarian aid.

Mayorkas guidelines dictate that immigrants should not be detained because of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, political opinions, or expressions of their First Amendment rights.

ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) officers were also recently ordered not to arrest pregnant or breastfeeding women.

The new immigration rules will be effective Nov. 29, or 60 days from the memo.

To implement these new guidelines, which are a drastic departure from traditional border agent practices, each party involved will receive training and report periodically to review whether the guidelines are being followed.

Mayorkas’ announcement comes at a time of tremendous pressure on the Biden administration regarding the border.

A Wednesday, Sept. 29 report claims that according to unofficial figures, so far in 2021, more than 1.6 million illegal immigrants have been apprehended for entering the country, a record number since the creation of the Border Patrol.

Many of these immigrants are released into the country. Although the government has not yet provided official figures, the new guidelines pave the road for the Biden administration to release such statistics.

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