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ICE officers will need preapproval before arresting some illegal immigrants under new rules

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Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers will need preapproval from managers to arrest some illegal immigrants if they do not fall into narrow categories, due to new guidance released Thursday.

Under the new guidance from the Biden administration, ICE would focus on three categories of immigrants: those who pose a threat to national security; those who have crossed the border since Nov. 1, and those who committed “aggravated felonies.”

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The guidance is temporary, lasting three months, until the Department of Homeland Security can issue further guidance. Officials said the guidance does not explicitly prevent anyone from being arrested or deported. Instead, it directs resources at certain targets. However, field officers seeking to arrest someone outside of those three categories would need approval from their chain of command.

“By focusing our limited resources on cases that present threats to national security, border security, and public safety, our agency will more ably and effectively execute its law enforcement mission,” ICE acting Director Tae Johnson said in a statement. “Like every law enforcement agency at the local, state, and federal level, we must prioritize our efforts to achieve the greatest security and safety impact.”

The new guidance also requires ICE to submit weekly arrest reports to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

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The guidelines also give the agency room to let illegal immigrants stay in the country, with officers told to consider factors such as ties to the community and personal circumstances — including those who have a serious physical or mental illness.

Biden’s DHS had sought to impose a 100-day moratorium on deporations but had been blocked by a federal judge due to a lawsuit by Texas. While the new guidance limits agents, it is a far cry from that radical measure.

But it is the latest move to liberalize the U.S. approach to illegal immigration from the tougher approach under former President Donald Trump. On Thursday, congressional Democrats unveiled a bill backed by Biden that would grant a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants. 

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Biden has also moved to roll back the Migrant Protection Protocols, ended the Trump-era travel bans, and halted the construction of the wall at the southern border — moves that have been strongly opposed by congressional Republicans.

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