US Announces New Immigration Enforcement Priorities Amid Haitian Migration Crisis

haitians immigration us
Haiti migrants waiting in Del Rio and Ciudad Acuña to get access to the United States, cross the Rio Grande toward Ciudad Acuña to get supplies, Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, in Ciudad Acuña, Mexico. Haitians crossed the Rio Grande freely and in a steady stream, going back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico through knee-deep water with some parents carrying small children on their shoulders. Unable to buy supplies in the U.S., they returned briefly to Mexico for food and cardboard to settle, temporarily at least, under or near the bridge in Del Rio, a city of 35,000 that has been severely strained by migrant flows in recent months. (Marie D. De Jesús/Houston Chronicle via AP)

The Biden administration has announced new immigration enforcement priorities amid the Haitian migration crisis.

 US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas said the new Guidelines for the Enforcement of Civil Immigration Law aims to “better focus the department’s resources on the apprehension and removal of noncitizens who are a threat to our national security, public safety, and border security and advance the interests of justice by ensuring a case-by-case assessment of whether an individual poses a threat.”

In the last six months, Mayorkas said he held multiple engagements with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) workforce and leadership across the country, as well as with a range of stakeholders including law enforcement, civic and community leaders to inform the new guidance.   

- Advertisement -

“For the first time, our guidelines will, in the pursuit of public safety, require an assessment of the individual and take into account the totality of the facts and circumstances,” Mayorkas said.

“In exercising this discretion, we are guided by the knowledge that there are individuals in our country who have been here for generations and contributed to our country’s well-being, including those who have been on the frontline in the battle against COVID, lead congregations of faith, and teach our children. 

“As we strive to provide them with a path to status, we will not work in conflict by spending resources seeking to remove those who do not pose a threat and, in fact, make our nation stronger,” he added. 

Mayorkas said enforcement priorities for apprehension and removal remain focused on noncitizens who are a threat to US national security, public safety and border security.  

But he said the guidelines are a break from a “categorical approach to enforcement.  

“They require an assessment of the individual and the totality of the facts, and circumstances to ensure resources are focused most effectively on those who pose a threat,” said the US Homeland Security Secretary.   

“There is also recognition that the majority of the more than 11 million undocumented or otherwise removable noncitizens in the United States have been contributing members of our communities across the country for years,” he added.

He said the immigration enforcement guidelines require the protection of civil rights and civil liberties, stating that a noncitizen’s race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity, national origin, political associations, or exercise of First Amendment rights cannot be factors in deciding to take enforcement action.  

He said continuous training, a process to review their effective implementation, extensive data collection and a case review process will all be required. 

Mayorkas said the new guidelines replace the interim priorities issued by ICE Acting Director Tae Johnson in February and become effective November 29, 2021.  

On Wednesday, the Homeland Security Secretary met with Haitian Ambassador to the United States Bocchit Edmond to discuss the nations’ continued cooperation.  

“I appreciated the opportunity to speak directly with Ambassador Edmond about our shared commitment to ensuring that Haitian migrants are treated with dignity and respect,” Mayorkas said.  “I look forward to continuing to work with the government of Haiti and other partners throughout the hemisphere as we work toward safe, orderly and humane management of migration in the region.” 

Mayorkas thanked the Government of Haiti for supporting the safe return and re-integration of Haitian nationals.  

Mayorkas said he assured the Haitian ambassador that “the dignified and humane treatment of all individuals, regardless of their immigration status, is his top priority.”

The Secretary also said he shared that the investigation into mistreatment of Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas, is ongoing.