Judge blocks Homeland Security memo that instructs ICE to limit scope of deportation targets

The memo was written in September by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Updated: March 22, 2022 - 3:20pm

A federal judge in Ohio has issued a partial block of the Biden administration's mandate to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to prioritize those with serious criminal histories and weigh the complete picture of an individual's circumstances prior to seeking deportation.

The mandate has been challenged by Arizona, Montana, and Ohio and was one of a number of orders from the Department of Homeland Security that encouraged ICE officers to limit their focus when it comes to illegal immigrants they are attempting to arrest and deport. 

Judge Michael Newman, however, has sided with the states that wish to limit the scope of the mandate and ruled that such directives can only come from Congress, and not the executive branch.

"At bottom, that is what this dispute is about: can the Executive displace clear congressional command in the name of resource allocation and enforcement goals? Here, the answer is no," wrote Newman.

He ruled that the memo, written by Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas "neglects" commands that otherwise "impose a mandatory duty on DHS to detain certain noncitizens" and arbitrarily disregards the harms of nonenforcement." 

The memo was a pivot away from the Trump-era emphasis on using officers' authority broadly for the purposes of deportation.

ICE was directed to focus on illegal aliens that deemed a national security or public safety threat due to serious criminal conduct. 

"The majority of undocumented noncitizens who could be subject to removal – the majority of the more than 11 million people – have been contributing members of our communities for years. The fact that an individual is a removable noncitizen should not alone be the basis of an enforcement action against them," said Mayorkas.

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