ICE expanded enforcement guidelines that continue to criminalize immigrant communities

For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, February 18, 2021

Washington, DC — In response to the release of the “Interim Guidance on Civil Immigration Enforcement and Removal Priorities” by Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Tae D. Johnson, Silky Shah, Executive Director of Detention Watch Network offered the following statement: 

“Today, while Biden unveiled the U.S. Citizenship Act , which takes steps towards providing relief for millions of immigrants, ICE expanded enforcement guidelines that continue to criminalize immigrant communities. Let us be clear, relief cannot come at the expense of ICE enforcement tactics. ICE is an agency that was specifically created to criminalize and target immigrants for incarceration, deportation, and exclusion from their communities and loved ones. The agency’s disregard for human life is part of its racist and xenophobic foundation. 

Today’s enforcement memo is particularly alarming in the following areas:

  • Expansion of immigration enforcement priorities: The new enforcement priorities target immigrants with aggravated felonies or gang related convictions, who have completed their sentence. Immigrants and refugees should be able to navigate their immigration case in community, not in detention. No one should be punished again after having completed their sentence in the unjust criminal punishment system.
  • Use of scarcity language. ICE does not operate with “limited resources” as stated in the memo. Rather, ICE’s budget has grown by about 40 percent since 2016 and currently operates at the astronomical level of $8.4 billion. While ICE’s budget has grown, patterns of abuse, mismanagement of funds and a complete disregard for congressional oversight has continued.

We urge the Biden administration to put an end to the long history of using public safety and national security as pretext for criminalizing immigrants and targeting Black and brown communities. True transformative change to this country’s broken immigration system must defund and dismantle ICE operations and detention that systematically racially profile people, deprive them of their liberty and separate loved ones.”



Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition building power through collective advocacy, grassroots organizing, and strategic communications to abolish immigration detention in the United States. Founded in 1997 by immigrant rights groups, DWN brings together advocates to unify strategy and build partnerships on a local and national level. Visit Follow on Twitter @DetentionWatch.