Joe Biden’s Crippling Immigration Enforcement Orders Disrupt ICE Agency

PHOENIX - APRIL 28: An undocumented Mexican immigrant is searched while being in-processed
John Moore/Getty Images

President Joe Biden’s orders that seek to cripple interior enforcement of federal immigration law is disrupting the operations at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

Two orders from the Biden administration, released via a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memo, have left many at ICE confused as to the perimeters of their duty in enforcing federal immigration law.

“It’s a mess,” former ICE Director Thomas Homan told Breitbart News of the orders issued by the Biden administration to the agency’s staff.

The memo includes a 100-day halt to deportations — which has since been at least temporarily blocked by a federal judge — for nearly all illegal aliens except those who are convicted of “aggravated felonies” and a dismantling of immigration enforcement that prevents ICE agents from arresting illegal aliens who are not convicted felons, known or suspected terrorists, or newly-arrived border crossers.

The result of the memo has led to disarray at DHS, one source told Breitbart News. In particular, the deportation order from Biden has made it unclear how ICE agents can arrest and detain illegal aliens who have yet to be convicted of aggravated felonies when there is no end goal for removal.

“If an MS-13 gang member gets arrested for child rape, ICE can’t take him because he hasn’t been convicted,” Homan said of the Biden order. “Even if he has a final order for removal, if he posts bond, ICE cannot touch him.”

Homan said the memo was poorly written and did not even attempt to engage the immigration divisions at DHS for input. Though not a signatory, Biden’s pick as deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council for Immigration Esther Olavarria is expected to have helped in drafting the memo.

“Nobody with immigration enforcement experience was at the table when they were writing this memo,” Homan said.

Center for Immigration Studies Director of Policy Jessica Vaughan said DHS would typically do a conference call with many of the agency’s officials. For the memo, none of that usual protocol was followed.

“I’ve talked to ICE officers in the field who said they are completely confused and concerned and as a result, the managers told them to do nothing because nobody knows what they can do,” Vaughan told Breitbart News. “The language is not specific … there was no training or briefings.”

“‘Confusion’ is the word I’ve heard most often from my ICE sources,” Vaughan said.

Some at ICE were taken aback when an internal email noted to “release them all” in an exchange about detainees. Later, the federal government stated that the exchange was only in reference to detainees who are at high risk of contracting the Chinese coronavirus.

When Breitbart News reached out to ICE, an official was seemingly vague about what the internal email suggested.

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement continues to make custody determinations on a case by case basis, in accordance with U.S. law and Department of Homeland Security policy,” the official said.

“During the course of routine operations, individuals can be released from custody based on the particular facts and circumstances of their cases,” they continued. “Additionally, during the COVID-19 pandemic, ICE continues to release detainees when possible or when directed by court order to maintain a detention capacity at or below the 75% recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Outside the memo, Biden has issued orders demanding DHS stop former President Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy where border crossers would be returned to Mexico while they awaited their asylum hearings. The policy effectively ended the practice of border crossers being released into the interior of the U.S.

The end of Remain in Mexico comes as federal immigration officials are grappling with how to handle an incoming caravan of thousands of migrants who are interested in taking advantage of Biden’s halt on deportations and his relaxed enforcement measures.

Already, there has been a surge of apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border that began in October and has consistently ticked upwards since. For instance, nearly 208,000 border crossers were apprehended at the border in the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2021 — the highest level of illegal immigration over this time period in 20 years.

John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Email him at


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