U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a new policy to pare back congressional leaders’ ability to delay removals of illegal aliens, according to a letter obtained Monday by Breitbart News.
Stays of removal are frequently issued to aliens otherwise slated for deportation when members of Congress introduce “private bills” to individually grant those aliens permanent legal status. While these bills rarely come to a vote and are even more rarely passed, ICE previously granted aliens stays of removal as a matter of course, while the bills are formally under consideration — a policy that can allow otherwise removable persons to remain in the United States for months if not years.
Liberal members of Congress like Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) have resorted to introducing these private bills to prevent deportations when the regular administrative process is exhausted.
In light of President Donald Trump’s executive order to place new emphasis on the deportation of aliens convicted of crimes, ICE has reevaluated this policy, according to the letter sent to congressional leaders Friday.
From now on, stays of removal will only be issued when specially requested by the chairs the House and Senate Judiciary Committees or the relevant subcommittees. In the current Congress, all these posts are held by Republicans.
Even when specifically requested, stays will now be granted only once for no more than six months with the potential for 90-day extensions at the discretion of the Director of ICE, currently Acting Director Thomas Homan. Stays will also be eligible for revocation if ICE discovers damning information about aliens slated for removal after a stay is issued.
This new ICE policy may remove one the most potent weapons used by opponents of the Trump administration’s new direction on immigration enforcement. A Capitol Hill source who was apprised of the policy change also expressed hope that, by decreasing the possibility of congressional interference, it would help ensure the efficient functioning of lawful immigration adjudication.
Over 950,000 aliens have pending removal orders against them as of last May, according to now-Acting ICE Director Homan’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Only about 300 federal immigration judges, who are part of the Department of Justice, are working through this backlog, although the Trump administration has pledged to rapidly expand this number. Fewer stays second guessing these judges’ orders, which are enforced by ICE, part of the Department of Homeland Security, may help to overcome this still-expanding logjam in the country’s immigration dockets.