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ICE shifts policy to allow more immigration arrests after judge's ruling

ICE shifts policy to allow more immigration arrests after judge's ruling

DHS officials expand criteria for taking into custody people suspected of being in U.S. without authorization

  • A. Mason/ICE

Immigration officials will no longer prioritize arresting migrants who are believed to be national security threats, after a federal judge ruled that Homeland Security agents should not focus on a narrow segment of people suspected of being in the United States illegally.

The change comes after Judge Drew Tipton, a Trump-appointed U.S. District Court judge in Texas, ruled on June 10 that the Biden administration's policy was illegal after Texas and Louisiana, both Republican-led states, filed suit with claims that it prevented federal laws from being enforced.

En español: ICE permitirá más arrestos de inmigrantes después del fallo de un juez

Agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement can now arrest anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally after federal officials agreed to comply with the ruling that tossed out the policy, which was set late last year.

The Department of Homeland Security, the parent agency for ICE, shifted its deportation policy in September when DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas prioritized the arrest of only undocumented immigrants believed to be a national security threat.

DHS is appealing the decision but announced Saturday that ICE agents would now make arrests on a case-by-case basis, effectively putting all undocumented immigrants at risk of arrest and potential deportation.

According to a 2021 memo by Mayorkas, ICE agents could only arrest anyone “who engaged in or is suspected of terrorism or espionage,” “poses a current threat to public safety,” or “poses a threat to border security.”

In his June 10 ruling, Tipton wrote that federal law requires agencies like ICE to ignore “rules that are contrary to law, are arbitrary and capricious, or failed to observe the requisite procedure.”

“Congress,” the federal judge wrote, had already passed laws “mandating detention of criminal aliens or aliens with final orders of removal,” and “accepting the Executive Branch’s position (to prioritize national security threats) would have profound consequences for the separation of powers.”

Tipton was also the federal judge who stopped the Biden administration from putting in place a 100-day pause on deportations during the first days of his presidency, and blocked the administration from ending requirements that asylum-seekers must wait in Mexico for their court hearings before U.S. immigration judges.

Bennito L. Kelty is’s IDEA reporter, focusing on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access stories, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.

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