The Biden administration will soon release its budget for the Department of Homeland Security. Secretary Mayorkas recently stated that his agency would close two ICE detention centers as part of the administration’s plans to reform ICE.
President Biden’s first days in office were marked by a flurry of activity to reform the immigration system. Although he ordered a 100-day freeze on many removals, a federal district court judge blocked the administration’s efforts. Nevertheless, he persists.
One of the big pieces of reform expected to be included in the budget is this administration’s use of detainers. A detainer is an ICE request to a local jail or law enforcement agency to hold an individual in order to give ICE sufficent time to detain the person. The process ran roughshod for many years and resulted in many innocent people being caught in the grasp of ICE. Now, the Biden administration has ordrered ICE officers to seek prior approval from regional directors before placing detainers on individuals. This change will reduce the extrajudicial actions of many ICE officers. The former policy granted ICE enormous power to detain people without seeking judicial approval. The changes are long overdue.
Another new approach requires ICE officers to obtain approval before arresting most people. In the dark days prior to President Biden entering the Oval Office, ICE officers were careening from one end of the country to the other and running rampant to arrest fathers, grandmothers and anyone they suspected of having entered the country without inspection. Today, President Biden has put a stop to this inhumane and unlawful practice by requiring ICE officers to arrest only those who pose a national security threat or a public safety risk. ICE will no longer systematically arrest people who enter the United States out of fear and desperation and who are literally running for their lives, as they cross a desert and encounter unspeakable challenges and horrors.
Gone are the dark days in American history when ICE officers roamed the streets and arrested abuelas and abuelos simply for crossing the border without inspection. No longer can an ICE officer extrajudicially arrest an unaccompanied minor.
Today, the U.S. government’s immigration efforts have been refocused on capturing serious offenders, not families and children. We have entered an age of enlightenment in the world of immigration. And this is just the beginning of additional efforts to reform ICE.