Opinion

MEHLMAN: We Were Wrong When We Said Mayorkas Had Abolished ICE. He Wasn’t Finished Yet

(Photo by JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Ira Mehlman Media Director, FAIR
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Two weeks ago in this space, FAIR boldly claimed that Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas had effectively abolished the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

We now must confess that we were premature in that declaration. Mayorkas was not finished. He still had more to do to make sure that our immigration laws are never enforced.

Mayorkas had already issued two policy directives dramatically constraining ICE agents from doing the jobs they are sworn to do – identifying, apprehending and facilitating the removal of people who are in the United States illegally.

On Sept. 30, he narrowed the field of illegal aliens that ICE could go after to three categories: National security threats, i.e. spies and terrorists; violent criminals, but only those not of “advanced” or “tender” age and who do not have dependents in the U.S.; and recently arrived illegal aliens who cannot figure out how to obtain a bogus rent receipt or pay stub which would indicate they were here before the arbitrary date of Nov. 1, 2020.

That edict was followed by another one on Oct. 12, informing ICE agents that they would no longer be allowed to arrest illegal aliens where they work (in direct violation of federal law), or take action against scofflaw employers who undercut the jobs and wages of American workers, unless they are blatantly exploiting those workers.

We thought there was nothing more he could do to tie ICE’s hands, short of just padlocking the doors and sending them all home. How could we have been so wrong?

Clearly, we underestimated Mayorkas’ zeal to ensure that FY 2021’s anemic levels of immigration arrests are not only eclipsed, but obliterated in FY 2022. On Oct. 27 he followed up with a third policy edict titled, Guidelines for Enforcement Actions in or Near Protected Areas Memo. The guidelines are described as “an expanded and non-exhaustive list of protected areas” where ICE agents may not venture in pursuit of the already truncated categories of deportable aliens who are still subject to enforcement.

More aptly, Secretary Mayorkas’ latest directive could be described as a handy list of safe places for foreign miscreants to avoid getting picked up by ICE. Among the long list of “examples” of places that are a no-go for ICE agents are ones you might expect: Schools, health care facilities and houses of worship. And then there are a bunch that you might not expect, like agencies that provide social services, places that distribute disaster relief or locales where “there is an ongoing parade, demonstration or rally” (because, really, would we want to infringe on a suspected terrorist’s First Amendment right to protest?).

Just to make sure that ICE agents understand how serious he is about them not enforcing our immigration laws, Mayorkas added, “The list is not complete. It includes only examples” of the places they must avoid even coming close to. The word “near” in the title is not just there for rhetorical flourish. “We need to consider the fact that an enforcement action taken near – and not necessarily in –the protected area can have the same restraining impact on an individual’s access to the protected area itself,” Mayorkas noted. In other words, don’t just keep away; keep far away.

In total, the three memos issued by Mayorkas in the space of a month make it clear who ICE may target for enforcement – virtually no one – and where they may be targeted – virtually nowhere. Plainly and simply, the secretary’s actions are designed to end the enforcement of all immigration laws – an ideological goal he has long championed, and one in which President Joe Biden, who allows him to serve, is complicit.

We would say that with the issuances of this third memo, Mayorkas’ goal of abolishing ICE and subverting the constitutionally enacted immigration laws he swore to uphold is complete. But we don’t like to make the same mistake twice, so we’ll just wait and see what else he might have up his sleeve.

Ira Mehlman is media director at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in Washington D.C.