DHS secretary won’t abolish ICE, now planning action against sanctuary cities that refuse to work with agency

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WASHINGTON, DC — A member of President Joe Biden’s cabinet has seemingly changed his tune and is now suggesting the administration will start taking a harder stance on some issues pertaining to illegal immigration in order to deal with the ongoing crisis at the U.S. border.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas reaffirmed his support for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and has even revealed that he is planning to take action against sanctuary cities that refuse to work with the agency, according to an exclusive report by The Washington Times.

Mayorkas also indicated that more illegal immigrants should face criminal prosecution for crossing into the border, according to the report.

In addition, the secretary also rejected the notion that ICE should be abolished or split up, going against what some in Biden’s political base have previously called for.

Mayorkas’ comments were gleaned from a virtual forum with ICE employees that took place last week.

When The Washington Times reached out to DHS for a comment on Mayorkas’ statements, the department declined, citing “internal discussions with our personnel, including those that are deliberative and law enforcement sensitive.”

The Washington Times reviewed the notes of the secretary’s conversation with employees from ICE’s branches of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Office of the Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA).

ERO handles deportations; HIS focuses on human trafficking, child pornography and gang activity; and OPLA litigates cases in immigration courts.

The Washington Times reported that Mayorkas said he is working on a new set of deportation guidelines to govern how and when officers can arrest and attempt to deport illegal immigrants.

When ICE employees expressed concern about the public’s resistance to them and their work, Mayorkas reportedly said the agency has a “noble mission.” The report further explained that Mayorkas also told ICE employees:

“I’m 100 percent opposed to the abolition of ICE. It is the opposite of what I think needs to occur. I think we need to strengthen our policies and practices and communicate more effectively what we do and why we do it.”

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In addition, Mayorkas indicated he thought more illegal immigrants should be prosecuted criminally. The Washington Times reported:

“In perhaps his most striking comments, Mr. Mayorkas said he thought more illegal immigrants should be prosecuted criminally. Generally, illegal immigrants are handled under administrative law, with the punishment removal.

“But entering the U.S. without permission is a misdemeanor under Title 8 Section 1325, and reentering the country after being ousted is a felony under Title 8 Section 1326.

“‘I see cases now where we apprehend and remove individuals that I think need to be prosecuted criminally,’ he said.

“At another point he said: ‘Quite frankly, I’m going to have to understand why some of these individuals are not subject to a Title 8 USC 1326 case, and I intend to work with the DOJ in that regard.’

“That is likely to irk immigrant-rights advocates who complain that the immigration system is already too tilted toward criminalizing illegal immigration.”

In March, a group of professors at the UCLA School of Law filed a brief with the Supreme Court arguing that Section 1326 is racist in its origin. One of those professors, Ahilan Arulananthem, told The Washington Times:

“My view is that no one should be advocating for more 1326 prosecutions without first reckoning with its history. I don’t know whether Secretary Mayorkas is aware of Section 1326’s origins — I’m sure many people who have prosecuted cases under it (and defended them, as I did for several years) are not.”

When The Washington Times shared Mayorkas’ comments with several current and former DHS officials, those same individuals said some of the secretary’s words might sound good to ICE’s workforce, but they doubted his willingness or ability to see them come to fruition.

One of those officials, Jon Feere, a former top ICE employee who now is at the Center for Immigration Studies, said Mayorkas’ promise to tackle sanctuary cities rings hollow because his deportation policy is going to be so narrow that it will free many of the same illegal immigrants the sanctuaries want to protect, according to the newspaper’s report.

Feere told The Washington Times:

“Mayorkas likely understands that some sanctuary policies are so ridiculous that even murderers might be released. But anything he does will still be contained within the Biden administration’s own narrow enforcement scheme.

“Biden’s DHS is allowing thousands of criminal aliens to run free via its own policies.”

Another official, who was not named, told the newspaper that Mayorkas was using the right-sounding words when speaking to ICE employees, but doubted he would follow through with concrete actions:

“I’ve seen this administration say a lot of things that I feel like they’re disingenuous about, and they know they can’t deliver on, but they pretend and leave their audience to believe they can deliver on. That’s what I see here.”

During last week’s forum, employees from each of ICE’s branches pleaded for a firmer hand amid the current migrant surge, according to The Washington Times:

“One employee said the department was treating illegal immigrants at the border more leniently for COVID-19 purposes than American citizens. Several employees questioned the Biden administration’s border policy changes, saying what the Trump team had been doing seemed to have worked.

“One employee complained of ‘notoriously low morale’ and blamed lack of support from Washington. Another employee demanded action on ‘racism, xenophobia, intolerance and the inflammatory rhetoric’ in ICE field offices.

“A number of questions asked whether ICE, stitched together in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks, should be split up, with Homeland Security Investigations separate from Enforcement and Removal Operations.

“One HSI employee said sanctuary cities refuse to work with ICE because of its deportation mission, but as collateral damage they won’t cooperate on other criminal investigations.”

Mayorkas then reportedly pledged to tackle the issue of sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with ICE, saying:

“I know the jurisdictions, and that is going to be one of my significant priorities. I think we have a lot of education to do and I think we have a lot of educating to do not only with city officials in terms of what we do and how we do it. But I think we have a lot of educating to do of the American public.”

The Washington Times noted that the Trump administration, while chiefly targeting illegal immigrants with criminal records, allowed agents and officers to pursue deportation against anyone in the country illegally.

However, with the Biden administration, ICE has been given much stricter rules, including a set of priorities that have cut ICE book-ins by 62 percent, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

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