PD memo only goes so far when held in conjunction with ICE’s massive operating infrastructure that includes a $7.9 billion budget

For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, September 30, 2021

Washington, DC — In response to the release of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) enforcement priorities or prosecutorial discretion memo, Stacy Suh, Program Director of Detention Watch Network (DWN) offered the following statement:

“We are deeply disappointed that the final enforcement priorities issued by the Biden administration continue to double down on categorical exclusions, targeting and demonizing those most vulnerable to detention and deportation. No matter where you are born, everyone deserves to be safe from detention and deportation, including people who have recently arrived in the United States seeking safety and protection and those who have had contact with the criminal legal system. Immigrants who have served their time in the unjust criminal legal system should not be subjected to the additional punishment of being deported or detained by ICE. Instead, like all members of the community, they should be released to their families and communities and allowed to start rebuilding their lives." 

"The overall framework of the enforcement priorities continues to rely on the use of public safety, border security and national security as pretext for criminalizing immigrants and targeting Black and brown communities. For example, using past criminal convictions under the guise of “public safety” replicates the harms of the racist criminal legal system that disproportionately impacts communities of color in the immigration system. Given ICE’s abysmal record of detaining and deporting people with impunity, we are skeptical about how these enforcement priorities will be implemented. In addition, framing people seeking safety as a “threat to border security” is appalling and goes against our deepest values."

"Specific to immigration detention, the enforcement priorities are intended to narrow the scope of people who could be targeted for detention and deportation, and yet the administration continues to inflate the detention system by nearly doubling the number of people detained in mid-July. Contrary to Biden’s own campaign promises, the Moshannon Valley Correctional Center, a former BOP facility, will now reopen as an ICE detention facility, part of an emerging pattern of detention expansion."

"While consideration of mitigating factors and individual circumstances has the potential to protect immigrant communities, ICE is a fundamentally flawed agency that was built to demonize and criminalize immigrant communities from its inception. Ultimately, this memo only goes so far when held in conjunction with ICE’s massive operating infrastructure that includes a $7.9 billion budget."

The Biden administration must change course to bring justice and fairness to the immigration system by ending anti-immigrant Trump-era policies and rolling back the fatally flawed detention system.

We demand the Biden administration:

  • Halt all detention system expansion efforts and immediately halt all transfers (both from the criminal legal system and within the immigration detention system)
  • Free everyone from immigration detention
  • Stop targeting those that have been historically criminalized and demonized by the racist criminal and immigration systems, including those who have recently arrived or have had contact with the criminal system.
  • Fully restore access to asylum at the border to comply with international obligations and US law, including by ending anti-Black Title 42 policy that disproportionately impacts Haitian migrants.
  • Deliver on his promise to end for-profit incarceration by extending the executive order phasing out Department of Justice private detention to include Department of Homeland Security detention. This must include not only ending contracts directly with private prison corporations, but also those with state and local governments.
  • Shrink the pipeline to detention and deportation beyond these enforcement priorities by ending the 287(g) agreements, Secure Communities Program, and the Criminal Alien Program.
  • Dramatically cut ICE and CBP’s funding, including cutting immigration detention and enforcement funding requests by at least 75% in the President’s Budget.


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 detentionwatchnetwork.org. Follow on Twitter @DetentionWatch.