Illegal immigrants convicted of simple assault, driving under the influence, and "less serious" drug crimes will not be deported under new Biden administration Immigration and Customs Enforcement guidelines.
The guidelines—which were outlined in internal memos obtained by the Washington Post—aim to prioritize "threats to national security, border security and public safety," ICE said in a statement. But the agency's new operational plan severely narrows the criminal convictions required for an illegal immigrant to be considered a "public safety threat."
"Generally, these convictions would not include drug-based crimes (less serious offenses), simple assault, DUI, money laundering, property crimes, fraud, tax crimes, solicitation, or charges without convictions," acting director Tae Johnson wrote in a Thursday email. He added that individuals with "gang tattoos" and other "loose" affiliations with gang activity also would not face deportation, according to the Post.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed that ICE would not deport illegal immigrants guilty of assault and DUI under the plan during a Monday afternoon briefing. She argued that while such crimes are not "acceptable behavior," the administration is "talking about the prioritization of who is going to be deported from the country."
If approved by Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the guidance would drastically reduce ICE arrests and deportations, giving a boost to progressive lawmakers who have long called to abolish the agency. Some Democrats, however, have already expressed discontent with the plan. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D., Texas) stressed his support for ICE agents during a Sunday Fox News appearance, noting that "large groups" of illegal immigrants have attempted to cross the border in his district in recent days.
"What do you do with those individuals? And then, what do we do about deportation?" Cuellar said. "We have to find balance with what ICE has to do. I support ICE. I support the men and women that are there."
ICE declined to comment further on the matter.
Johnson's internal emails describing the new initiative came two weeks after ICE issued a memo pledging to "conduct a review of policies and practices concerning immigration enforcement." The memo also ordered a 100-day pause on deportations, but the move was quickly halted by a federal judge in Texas, who said that the Biden administration failed to provide "any concrete, reasonable justification" for the moratorium.
Southern border apprehensions exploded in 2019, reaching their highest annual level in more than a decade as then-president Donald Trump pledged to ramp up illegal immigration enforcement. Rep. Andy Biggs (R., Ariz.), who serves on the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, told the Washington Free Beacon the Biden administration's more lenient approach will "make our communities less safe and compromise the abilities of law enforcement to protect innocent Americans."
"The radical left has long promised to reverse the Trump administration's efforts to enforce our laws and punish illegal immigration, and the Biden administration has wasted no time in fulfilling these promises," Biggs said. "I support the men and women who serve our nation at ICE, and I endorse their work to keep ALL illegal aliens off our streets and back to their country of origin."