MEMO of ICE: Civil Immigration Enforcement: Priorities for the Apprehension, Detention, and Removal of Aliens

This memorandum outlines the civil immigration enforcement priorities of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as they relate to the apprehension, detention, and removal of aliens. These priorities shall apply across all ICE programs and shall inform enforcement activity, detention decisions, budget requests and execution, and strategic planning.

A. Priorities for the apprehension, detention, and removal of aliens
In addition to our important criminal investigative responsibilities, ICE is charged with enforcing the nation’s civil immigration laws. This is a critical mission and one with direct significance for our national security, public safety, and the integrity of our border and immigration controls. ICE, however, only has resources to remove approximately 400,000 aliens per year, less than 4 percent of the estimated illegal alien population in the United States. In light of the large number of administrative violations the agency is charged with addressing and the limited enforcement resources the agency has available, ICE must prioritize the use of its enforcement personnel, detention space, and removal resources to ensure that the removals the agency does conduct promote the agency’s highest enforcement priorities, namely national security, public safety, and border security.

Priority 1. Aliens who pose a danger to national security or a risk to public safety
The removal of aliens who pose a danger to national security or a risk to public safety shall be ICE’s highest immigration enforcement priority. These aliens include, but not limited to:
• aliens engaged in or suspected of terrorism or espionage, or who otherwise pose a danger to national security; • aliens convicted of crimes, with a particular emphasis on violent criminals, felons, and repeat offenders; • aliens not younger than 16 years of age who participated in organized criminal gangs; • aliens subject to outstanding criminal warrants; and • aliens who otherwise pose a serious risk to public safety.

Priority 2. Recent illegal entrants
In order to maintain control at the border and at ports of entry, and to avoid a return to the prior practice commonly and historically referred to as “catch and release,” the removal of aliens who have recently violated immigration controls at the border, at ports of entry, or through the knowing abuse of the visa and visa waiver programs shall be a priority.

Priority 3. Aliens who are fugitives or otherwise obstruct immigration controls
In order to ensure the integrity of the removal and immigration adjudication processes, the removal of aliens who are subject to a final order of removal and abscond, fail to depart, or intentionally obstruct immigration controls, shall be a priority.

B. Apprehension, detention, and removal of other aliens unlawfully in the United States
• aliens who obtain admission or status by visa, identification, or immigration benefit fraud.

The guidance to the National Fugitive Operations Program: Priorities, Goals and Expectations, issued on December 8, 2009, remains in effect and shall continue to apply for all purposes, including how Fugitive Operation Teams allocate resources among fugitive aliens, previously removed aliens, and criminal aliens.

Nothing in this memorandum should be construed to prohibit or discourage the apprehension, detention, or removal of other aliens unlawfully in the United States. ICE special agents, officers, and attorneys may pursue the removal of any alien unlawfully in the United States, although attention to these aliens should not displace or disrupt the resources needed to remove aliens who are a higher priority. Resources should be committed primarily to advancing the priorities set forth above in order to best protect national security and public safety and to secure the border.

C. Detention
As a general rule, ICE detention resources should be used to support the enforcement priorities noted above or for aliens subject to mandatory detention by law. Absent extraordinary circumstances or the requirements of mandatory detention, field office directors should not expend detention resources on aliens who are known to be suffering from serious physical or mental illness, or who are disabled, elderly, pregnant, or nursing, or demonstrate that they are Civil Immigration Enforcement: Priorities for the Apprehension, Detention, and Removal of Aliens primary caretakers of children or an infirm person, or whose detention is otherwise not in the public interest. To detain aliens in those categories who are not subject to mandatory detention, ICE officers or special agents must obtain approval from the field office director. If an alien falls within the above categories and is subject to mandatory detention, field office directors are encouraged to contact their local Office of Chief Counsel for guidance.

D. Prosecutorial discretion
The rapidly increasing number of criminal aliens who may come to ICE’s attention heightens the need for ICE employees to exercise sound judgment and discretion consistent with these priorities when conducting enforcement operations, making detention decisions, making decisions about release on supervision pursuant to the Alternatives to Detention Program, and litigating cases. Particular care should be given when dealing with lawful permanent residents, juveniles, and the immediate family members of U.S. citizens. Additional guidance on prosecutorial discretion is forthcoming. In the meantime, ICE officers and attorneys should continue to be guided by the November 17, 2000 prosecutorial discretion memorandum from then-INS Commissioner Doris Meissner; the October 24, 2005 Memorandum from Principal Legal Advisor William Howard; and the November 7, 2007 Memorandum from then-Assistant Secretary Julie Myers.

E. Implementation
ICE personnel shall follow the priorities set forth in this memorandum immediately. Further, ICE programs shall develop appropriate measures and methods for recording and evaluating their effectiveness in implementing the priorities. As this may require updates to data tracking systems and methods, ICE will ensure that reporting capabilities for these priorities allow for such reporting as soon as practicable, but not later than October 1, 2010.