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National Immigration Project: New DHS Enforcement Priorities Will Continue to Fuel Detention and Deportation Machines

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Posted: Sep. 30, 2021

For Immediate Release
September 30, 2021

Arianna Rosales, National Immigration Project,

Washington, DC - Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a new memo outlining the agency's immigration "enforcement priorities." The memo continues an enforcement-first approach, targeting three broad categories of people for arrest, detention, and deportation, rather than prioritizing people for protection. DHS's choice to continue with its criminalizing framework will perpetuate significant racial disparities for immigrants in the United States and has already led to horrific cruelty against Black migrants seeking protection at the border.

See here for a quick FAQ on the September 30th Mayorkas Memo.

Said Sirine Shebaya, Executive Director of the National Immigration Project:

"President Biden promised to create a more humane and just immigration system. What this requires is a fundamental transformation, not changes around the edges to the same detention and deportation machinery. While we appreciate the move away from broad categorical exclusions, the memo falls short of delivering what our communities have been asking for. It continues to harness the same framing of 'national security,' 'border security,' and 'public safety' that DHS and other law enforcement agencies have long used as pretexts to target Black, Brown, Muslim, Arab, Asian, and other immigrants of color.

"Already, we have seen the number of people in immigration detention increase by 70% since President Biden took office. Just this week, ICE signed a new contract with a private facility expanding its detention beds in Pennsylvania. The last thing our communities need is for ICE and CBP — agencies both rife with abuse — to be encouraged to prioritize people for arrest and deportation. The broad discretion given to ICE and CBP agents will simply serve to layer the harms of the racist criminal legal system on top of those of the racist immigration framework.

"Having seen the horrific mistreatment of Haitian migrants at the border this past month, we are especially appalled to see DHS label migrants who attempt to cross the border outside of ports of entry as 'threats to border security.' With Title 42 in place, asylum seekers have virtually no other way to enter the country. The perpetuation of these false narratives is precisely what leads to the cruel treatment migrants experience at the border.

"The release of these priorities falls squarely on the 25th anniversary of IIRIRA, an anti-immigrant law signed by President Clinton that vastly expanded mandatory detention and deportation and increased collusion between federal immigration agents and local law enforcement. Today and every day, communities hit hardest by the 'tough on crime approach of the 1990s continue to feel the impact of this system.

"We urge the Biden administration to hear the demands of our communities and take immediate and concrete steps to disentangle these systems; invest in communities; and keep families and communities together."

In June 2021, the National Immigration Project and its partners sent a letter signed by 156 organizations to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas urging DHS and all its components, including ICE and CBP, to change course on enforcement to protect families and communities and keep them whole. The National Immigration Project also released The Human Costs of ICEs Enforcement Framework, a report highlighting stories of community members who have been excluded from immigration relief due to DHSs interim enforcement framework under the Biden administration.


The National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG) is a national non-profit organization that provides technical assistance and support to community-based immigrant organizations, legal practitioners, and all advocates seeking and working to advance the rights of noncitizens. NIPNLG utilizes impact litigation, advocacy, and public education to pursue its mission. Learn more at Follow NIPNLG on social media: National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild on Facebook, @NIPNLG on Twitter and Instagram.