Confusing internal directive emailed to ICE officers regarding illegal immigrants: ‘Release them all’

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TEXAS — An internal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) memorandum was emailed to Texas ICE officers on Thursday, claiming new operating procedures as a result of President Joe Biden’s executive order on illegal immigrants issued the day before.

The ICE memo outlines a new policy of releasing and stopping the deportation of illegal immigrants, but it has caused confusion because it appears to make assumptions that are not specifically mentioned in Biden’s executive order or the memo issued from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Jan. 20.

The ICE memo tried to explain Biden’s executive order, which reverses the Trump administration’s efforts to arrest most illegal immigrants. The ICE memo claims new procedures must be followed regarding the release and detention of illegal immigrants.

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson obtained a copy of the ICE email and revealed its contents on Friday night. The email allegedly explained that due to Biden’s directive, ICE officers in Texas must “stop all removals” of those who have entered the U.S. illegally:

“As of midnight tonight, stop all removals. This includes Mexican bus runs, charter flights and commercial removals (until further notice) … all cases are to be considered [no significant likelihood of removal in foreseeable future].”

The email further stated:

“Release them all, immediately. No sponsor available is not acceptable any longer.”

Carlson explained that the unnamed ICE official who emailed the memo said he was just “the messenger” trying to explain Biden’s new directive. It is not clear why the official’s name has not been released.

While the ICE memo states “release them all,” it does not specifically call for the release of those currently in detention. Due to the confusion of what is allegedly contained in the ICE memo and what is actually in the memo issued by DHS on Jan. 20, Fox News made some calls.

Fox News reported that DHS is currently trying to figure out how to enact Biden’s directive since it does not specifically call for the immediate release of migrants currently in detention.

On Wednesday, Biden signed a series of executive orders undoing Trump’s signature policies.

One of those orders included a 100-day pause on deportations of most people living in the U.S. illegally, along with a new priority system for those who will still be subject to removal.

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The DHS memo that was signed by acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske outlined the guidelines that would take effect on Feb. 1. It included categories of offenders who would be subject to arrest and removal. For example, migrants who illegally arrived at the border after Nov. 1 in 2020 would still be deported.

Illegal immigrants already in the U.S. who pose a national security or public safety risk, including anyone convicted of an “aggravated felony,” would be considered a high-priority case under the new directive.

The moratorium on deportations and the changed rules for arrests are a change from the Trump administration’s policies, which allowed ICE officers to arrest and deport most offenders.

However, Biden’s directive is also a significant departure from the practices of President Barack Obama. During Obama’s tenure, ICE issued memos to limit arrests and exempt certain immigrants from deportation, but it also carried out more than 3 million deportations — a record high according to CBS.

Thomas Holman, who led ICE for a year and a half during the Trump administration, told Fox News on Thursday that the moratorium and new enforcement guidelines would shield immigrants who have serious criminal convictions from deportation.

John Amaya, a former top ICE official during the Obama administration, told CBS News that Biden’s directive will bring back “a sense of normalcy.” He also said while some ICE officers may disagree with the new policies, he is confident they will follow the new orders:

“They’re sworn to uphold the law and execute on the directives, absent unconstitutional directives. They may disagree. But they’re going to execute them.”

On Friday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton clearly disagreed and filed a lawsuit seeking to block Biden’s move to pause the deportations, saying the state would face “irreparable harm” if the deportation moratorium was allowed to go into effect.

Paxton argued that the deportation moratorium violated the president’s constitutional duty to execute federal laws.

Paxton, a Republican, also said the temporary freeze violated an enforcement agreement the state had with the outgoing Trump administration earlier this month. Paxton noted that DHS is required to provide a notice of 180 days before making changes to immigration policy and enforcement practices.

The complaint reads in part:

“On its first day in office, the Biden Administration cast aside congressionally enacted immigration laws and suspended the removal of illegal aliens whose removal is compelled by those very laws.

“In doing so, it ignored basic constitutional principles and violated its written pledge to work cooperatively with the State of Texas to address shared immigration enforcement concerns.

“This unlawful reversal will cause Texas immediate and irreparable harm if it is not enjoined.”

The Washington Post reported that the White House and DHS did not respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit.

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