FIRST ON FOX: Republicans on the House Oversight Committee are accusing the Biden administration of abandoning its duty to enforce U.S. immigration law by its drastic tightening of rules for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – which have coincided with a drop in arrests of illegal immigrants.
“The ‘Guidelines for the Enforcement of Civil Immigration Law’ that you issued on Sept. 30, 2021, which go into effect on Nov. 29, 2021, are an affront to the rule of law and demonstrate the Biden administration’s intent to misuse prosecutorial discretion in order to avoid enforcing the immigration laws of this country,” Reps. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., and Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., say in the letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
“This dereliction of duty in the interior of the country is particularly grotesque considering the crisis on the southern border,” they say.
The Biden administration issued temporary guidance in February which limited ICE agents to targeting recent border crossers, aggravated felons and national security risks. In September, that guidance was formalized in a memo that said: “The fact an individual is a removable noncitizen therefore should not alone be the basis of an enforcement action against them.”
“For the first time, our guidelines will, in the pursuit of public safety, require an assessment of the individual and take into account the totality of the facts and circumstances,” Mayorkas said in a statement announcing the memo.
However, the guidance has coincided with a decrease in arrests and deportations. The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that there were approximately 70,000 administrative Enforcement and Removal Operation (ERO) arrests in FY 2021 — the lowest level in more than a decade and about half of the annual totals in the Trump administration.
“This decrease in enforcement is unacceptable, and demonstrates that the Biden administration does not intend to use the resources appropriated by Congress to fully enforce the law,” Comer and Biggs write.
The Republican lawmakers note that ICE must now conduct additional investigative work to judge a variety of factors on whether the illegal immigrant is actually able to be deported.
The drop in interior enforcement has come just as the numbers of migrants coming to the border have spiked, with more than 1.7 million encounters in FY 2021 at the southern border. Republicans have accused the Biden administration of adopting policies — including this one — that encourage migrants to come to the border in droves as they believe they will be less likely to be removed.
“Your direction to ICE not to enforce immigration law, except in very limited circumstances and after expending substantial resources investigating extraneous information will only serve as an additional pull factor that will lead to even more illegal immigration into the United States,” they say.
They request a range of information from DHS, including who was consulted during the development of the guidelines, training manuals related to the guidance and any analysis of the potential effects of the guidance. DHS typically responds to congressional correspondence through its official channels.
Earlier this month Mayorkas announced even more ICE restrictions, placing a bar on worksite enforcement raids that had become a more regular occurrence during the Trump administration.