By Cris Batista | Jun 15, 2021

The Marching Orders To ICE Agents & Our Intervention

Deportations and immigration enforcement have continued to be a part of our daily lives. In the past few months, we’ve seen detention rates rise and President Biden call for an $18 million increase in ICE funding. And just last week the Supreme Court made it harder for immigrants with temporary protective status (TPS) to become citizens in their most recent ruling.

Limiting the power of ICE agents is critical to reducing deportations, ending family separation, and keeping our communities safe. That’s why we are focusing on making an intervention strategy on the administration’s  marching orders to ICE agents, known as the prosecutorial discretion memorandum (or “PD memo” for short).

Currently, ICE agents have the power to decide who to arrest and detain based on their “good faith belief” about who’s a threat to “public safety.” This classification then determines how individuals get prioritized for deportation – basically, who immigration agents spend their time pursuing and detaining.

We know that the White House and DHS are still writing the document that sets these instructions for ICE agents all over the country – which means we still have a chance to influence them. We can still work to change the bad parts of the current policy, particularly the pieces that rely on the criminalization and policing of Black and Brown communities. In fact, we want to change the entire way in which ICE describes their priorities, to focus on how we can defend and protect more of our people while eroding the power of ICE agents.

The Issues 

The current “PD memo” document:  

  • Identifies anyone who enters the U.S. after November 20, 2020 as a priority for deportation. This puts the process for seeking asylum and refuge in our country in question for an untold number of individuals fleeing dangerous political and social situations;  
  • Allows ICE agents to use their own “good faith belief” on who they should recommend for deportation based on a classification of “aggravated felony”. And we’ve indicated in the past, this DHS charge doesn’t need to be felony nor aggravated, in order for an undocumented person to be classified this way. 
  • Grants ICE agents the ability to label individuals 16 or older as being in “active participation” with a gang, and thus a priority for deportation. ICE can assign this label on intentional participation at their discretion, even on individuals who have neither been convicted or charged. 

These elements continue the same trend of a carceral and inhumane U.S. immigration system. And as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s recent tweet shows, this country’s immigration policy also ignores the United States’ role in destabilizing governments in Latin America and across the globe. The current policies continue a too-long legacy of ripping families apart in the U.S. since slavery.

It is time for the Biden Administration to make good on their promises to undoing the harms of past presidencies: The White House and DHS must proactively limit ICE’s power to harm undocumented people and our communities.

What’s Next? 

We believe that a better world, rooted in dignity for all people, is possible. That’s why we are using organizing power with partner immigrant right’s groups to intervene. 

We will share our recommendations with DHS on the harmful language that should be rejected and the protections we believe should be included for organizers and activists. 

But right now, the instructions to ICE agents and their effects on our communities, is not widely known.

As we continue these efforts and demand justice for all, we hope you stand with us. Please share this critical information with your networks and loved ones, to expand the reach of this collective care.

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