New Memo on ICE Enforcement and Removals Continues to Criminalize Immigrant Communities

February 19, 2021

Washington, D.C.Church World Service today expressed concern over new interim guidance by Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Tae Johnson outlining expanded enforcement priorities that harm our immigrant neighbors and fail to fully end the agency’s culture of cruelty. The memo sets new prosecutorial discretion temporary guidance, but it unfortunately reinforces a system that perpetuates inaccurate, outdated and harmful narratives about our immigrant community members. Acting Director Johnson’s new guidance is especially disappointing because it does nothing to address the underlying racism and unchecked abuse of power that plagues the agency. CWS calls on the Biden administration to reverse the current practice of punitive enforcement and to turn a new page toward true transformative change, justice and compassion.

“As a faith-based organization, we believe in the dignity of all people,” said Meredith Owen, Director of Policy and Advocacy for Church World Service. “These temporary enforcement guidelines wrongfully criminalize our immigrant neighbors and immorally target certain immigrants who have suffered because of an unjust system. The agency has repeatedly demonstrated an utter disregard for human life and has operated with corrupt impunity— all with a bloated budget that has grown astronomically since 2016. We urge Congress to hold the administration accountable to stop the Department of Homeland Security and ICE from detaining, deporting and excluding immigrants from their communities and loved ones.”

“Last November, the American people overwhelmingly voted to rebuke the Trump administration’s campaign of cruelty towards immigrants,” said Reverend Noel Andersen, Director of Grassroots Organizing for Church World Service. “Although there remains an opportunity for incremental change, it is heartbreaking to see ICE continue its practice of criminalizing and deporting immigrant communities through the overly broad category of “aggravated felonies” or the unfair practice of placing young people from Black and Brown communities in gang databases. DHS and ICE should work to stop these criminalizing policies as they work to set new enforcement guidelines.” 

Further analysis on this interim guidance is available here.

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Since 1946, Church World Service has supported refugees, immigrants and other displaced individuals, in addition to providing sustainable relief and development solutions to communities that wrestle with hunger and poverty.