On April 27, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are no longer authorized to arrest people in or near courthouses for most immigration violations. According to Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, federal agents can only arrest immigrants who pose a threat to national security or public safety or there is a risk of destroying evidence in a criminal case.
Reversal of Previous Policy
This announcement is another reversal of the former administration’s immigration enforcement policy. Previously, under a 2018 directive, ICE agents were permitted to performed routine arrests at federal, state, and local courthouses.
Many agents validated such arrests because some local jurisdictions—especially those with “sanctuary city” laws—refused to cooperate with authorities and turn over incarcerated immigrants. The Trump-era policy prioritized public safety threats, including gang affiliation, but failed to restrict routine arrests and bar agents from detaining loved ones or witnesses who could face deportation.
Focus on Perpetrators of Serious Crimes
In February 2021, the Biden administration directed ICE to focus more on immigrants who have committed serious crimes (e.g., serious felonies and sex crimes), who have been convicted of DUI, or who pose a threat.
This prioritization aligns with how the Obama administration handled immigration matters, while the Trump administration sought to arrest and deport illegal immigrants – no matter their community ties or criminal records.
Memo from ICE and CBP
In response to the announcement by the DHS, the acting leaders of ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have issued a memo to personnel about the limited circumstances in which federal agents can apprehend individuals in or near courthouses.
Additionally, ICE and CBP must also provide a monthly report to DHS and the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on request. These reports must provide details of all planned and executed immigration enforcement actions in or near courthouses and the reasons behind such actions.
If you or a loved one is facing deportation in Phoenix, AZ, contact Kanu & Associates, P.C. today at (602) 353-7795 for a consultation. We offer more than two decades of legal experience in immigration law!