HOUSTON (AP) — President Joe Biden’s administration has deported hundreds of immigrants in its early days despite his campaign pledge to stop removing most people in the U.S. illegally at the beginning of his term.
A federal judge last week ordered the Biden administration not to enforce a 100-day deportations ban.
In recent days, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has deported immigrants to at least three countries: 15 people to Jamaica on Thursday and 269 people to Guatemala and Honduras on Friday. More deportation flights were scheduled on Monday.
It’s unclear how many of those people are considered national security or public safety threats or had recently crossed the border illegally. The Department of Homeland Security recently issued new guidance to enforcement agencies, saying that these categories of persons were priority for deportation.
Some of the people put on the flights may have been expelled — which is a quicker process than deportation — under a public health order that former President Donald Trump invoked during the coronavirus pandemic and that Biden has kept in place.
Both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris vocally opposed the Trump administration’s immigration priorities during the presidential campaign.
In October 2020, Harris stated that on the issue of immigration, “there couldn’t’ be a bigger difference between a Biden/Harris approach and a Donald Trump approach.”
“Donald Trump has been horrendous. Look at the policy which has been about putting babies in cages and separating children from their parents at the border. He also broke his promise to the DREAMers, some of which are coming from Caribbean countries.”
ICE said Friday that it had deported people to Jamaica and that it was in compliance with last week’s court order. The agency did not respond to several requests for further comment on additional deportation flights.
Officials in Honduras confirmed that 131 people were on a deportation flight that landed Friday. Another flight that landed in Guatemala on Friday had 138 people, with an additional 30 people expected to arrive Monday, officials there said.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton banned the Biden administration from enforcing a 100-day deportation moratorium that had gone into effect Jan. 22. Tipton said the Biden administration had violated the federal Administrative Procedure Act in issuing the moratorium and had not proven why a pause in deportations was necessary.
Tipton’s ruling, however, does not require deportations to resume at their previous pace. Immigration agencies typically have latitude in processing cases and scheduling removal flights.
A statement from the White House said that despite the court ruling, President Biden remained committed to the cause.
“President Biden remains committed to taking immediate action to reform our immigration system to ensure it’s upholding American values while keeping our communities safe,” the White House said.