The federal government is changing some of its policies regarding immigration. In a recent memo to major immigration agencies, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it wants to implement more flexible standards about deportations. It will also conduct an analysis of current immigration policies and determine if any changes are needed. However, the biggest aspects of the memo, which called for a moratorium on deportation, was temporarily halted by a federal judge.
What Does the New Memo Layout?
On the first day of the new administration, the DHS issued a memo to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which enforces immigration laws within the country; the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which handles border security; and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which focuses on processing the applications for those looking to apply for citizenship.
The memo addressed different aspects of immigration with its primary goal to reverse some of the immigration decisions made previously. The biggest change involved deportations, which were originally scheduled to be halted for 100 days before the intervention of a federal judge.
The memo also addressed the immigration process in general and asked the chief of staff of the DHS to review current immigration policies to determine if there are any changes that could be made. The review was to take place during the 100-day moratorium. It is unclear how the recent change will impact the review.
What Happened with the Moratorium on Deportations?
The deportation moratorium was scheduled to begin on Friday, Jan. 22, however, the U.S. District Judge issued a temporary restraining order that blocked it. The order came after a lawsuit was filed by the Texas Attorney General, who argued that the memo was a violation of federal law and a breach of contract that Texas signed with the DHS. In the agreement, the federal government promised it would not make any substantive immigration changes without first reviewing them and giving states time to prepare for the change. Texas said making a quick decision conflicted with the agreements.
The judge did not make his ruling based on the arguments, even though he said, in his opinion, that they contain merits and should be evaluated further. The ruling was based on the fact that he said Texas proved that the moratorium would cause imminent and irreparable harm to the state and its citizens. He added that it was more than likely that Texas would win its overall lawsuit based on the merits of federal law.
What Aspects of Immigration is DHS Looking to Update?
The memo also addressed a comprehensive review of current immigration policies with a list of recommendations on what to do moving forward. The analysis will investigate how it can modify the current enforcement policies, including policies for prioritizing the use of enforcement personnel, detention space, and removal assets. The review will also investigate policies dealing with prosecutorial discretion, detention, and interaction with state and local law enforcement.
The memo stated that regardless of what recommendations are made, it will be in keeping with the mission and goal of the DHS. The original plan was for the report to be ready within 100 days. It is unclear what impact the recent ruling will have on this review.
What Changes will Take Place Regarding Immigration Enforcement?
Despite the setback with deportation, the current administration still has plans to implement new policies on enforcement and deportation standards. The memo claims that the DHS does not have the resources to remove all 11 million people who are in the country illegally, so it will have to prioritize. It added that the goal of the system is to protect national security, border security, and public safety. Those scheduled for deportation will be categorized based on three categories:
- National Security: Those suspected of engaging in an act of terrorism within the United States or their arrest was in the best interest of protecting the country.
- Border Security: Individuals caught attempting to enter the country illegally through ports or the border on or after Nov. 1, 2020.
- Public Safety: Those who had been incarcerated and convicted of aggravated felony who were released after the publication of the memo.
The DHS wants to prioritize these individuals for deportation. However, the agency did provide itself a catch-all. The memo states that in addition to the three priority groups, the DHS reserves the right to include others who might be in the country illegally. The agency said it would offer further guidance for officers in the future.
What are the Plans for the Future?
The memo is the first step in what the new administration hopes will be a comprehensive immigration reform package. Its goal is to announce plans by late January, with an eye toward passing them by year-end. If successful, it would be the first immigration package passed since the early 80s. However, the odds of it passing are not favorable. Uncertainty during this time might cause people to worry about their immigration status. If an individual is encountering citizenship and immigration issues, they should speak to an immigration lawyer as soon as possible.
Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Help Clients Fight Against Unwarranted Deportation
If you are uncertain about your immigration status and are afraid you might be deported, a Philadelphia immigration lawyer at Surin & Griffin, P.C. can help you. Contact us online or call 215-925-4435 for an initial consultation today. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and nationwide.