Two Republican members of the House Oversight Committee accused the Biden administration Tuesday of trying to “avoid enforcing the immigration laws of this country” by issuing new guidelines prioritizing certain illegal immigrants for deportation.
In their letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Oversight Committee ranking member James Comer (R-Ky.) and Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) accused the White House of “dereliction of duty in the interior of the country [that] is particularly grotesque considering the crisis on the southern border.”
The letter was first reported by Fox News.
The guidelines issued by Mayorkas on Sept. 29, which are due to take effect Nov. 29, ordered officials to focus on apprehending immigrants who “pose a threat to national security, public safety, and border security.”
“The fact an individual is a removable noncitizen … should not alone be the basis of an enforcement action against them,” read the guidelines, which claimed that “[w]e do not have the resources to apprehend and seek the removal of every one” of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the US.
The seven-page document laying out the guidelines also suggested the possibility of “mitigating factors” against deporting an illegal immigrant who has committed a crime, including “advanced or tender age”; “lengthy presence in the United States”; “military or other public service of the noncitizen or their immediate family”; and “the impact of removal on family in the United States.”
“Whether a noncitizen poses a current threat to public safety is not to be determined according to bright lines or categories,” it reads. “It instead requires an assessment of the individual and the totality of the facts and circumstances.”
Comer and Biggs accused Mayorkas Tuesday of “intentional imposition of bureaucratic red tape [that] will most likely lead to an even greater decrease in enforcement actions.”
“Your direction to ICE not to enforce immigration law, except in very limited circumstances and after expending substantial resources investigating extraneous information will only serve as an additional pull factor that will lead to even more illegal immigration into the United States,” they wrote. “And rightly so, because under your direction, illegal border crossers know that they will not face consequences if they are released into the United States.”
Last week, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) confirmed that more than 1.7 million illegal immigrants had been detained at the southwestern border over the previous 12 months — the highest total on record.
The guidance would replace interim rules issued in February that were initially blocked by a federal judge in August as part of a lawsuit brought by Texas and Louisiana. The judge ruled that the administration did not have discretion to choose which migrants to detain, but a federal appeals court allowed the guidelines to take effect while the lawsuit proceeds.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers from the agency’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) directorate had executed approximately 72,000 arrests over the previous 12 months — fewer than half the average number recorded each fiscal year between 2017 and 2019.
“This decrease in enforcement is unacceptable, and demonstrates that the Biden Administration does not intend to use the resources appropriated by Congress to duly enforce the law,” Comer and Biggs wrote.
Meanwhile, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) called on President Biden Tuesday to visit the US-Mexico border region after Biden said during a CNN town hall last week that “I guess I should go down, but the whole point of it is I haven’t had a whole hell of a lot of time to get down.”
“I think he needs to understand what’s happening,” Cuellar told Fox News host Neil Cavuto. “He needs to listen not only to the immigration activists, but he needs to listen to our border communities … They need to listen to the judges, to the mayors, to the public officials, the landowners down there, and they also need to listen to the men and women in green and blue. Those are the people in the front line and we need to have their backs.”