The head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit in charge of deportations has directed his officers to take action against all illegal immigrants they may cross paths with, regardless of criminal histories. The guidance appears to go beyond the Trump administration’s publicly stated aims, and some advocates say may explain a marked increase in immigration arrests.
In a February memo, Matthew Albence, a career official who heads the Enforcement and Removal Operations division of ICE, informed his 5,700 deportation officers that, “effective immediately, ERO officers will take enforcement action against all removable aliens encountered in the course of their duties.”
The Trump administration, including Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, has been clear in promising to ramp up immigration enforcement, but has so far emphasized that its priority was deporting immigrants who posed a public safety threat. Indeed, Kelly, to whom Albence ultimately reports, had seemed to suggest a degree of discretion when he told the agencies under his command earlier this year that immigration officers “may” initiate enforcement actions against any undocumented person they encountered. That guidance was issued just a daybefore Albence sent the memo to his staff.
A spokesman with ICE said Albence’s directive did not represent a break with Kelly’s stated aims, and was consistent with current agency policies.