During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas described the American immigration system as “broken,” and said that not all of the 1.2 million illegal immigrants who have final removal orders should be deported.
In late September, Mayorkas issued new guidance for the department’s immigration agencies and officers, which prioritized the deportation of illegal immigrants who pose a risk to national security, public safety, and border security. Officers were also directed to consider the “totality of the facts and circumstances.”
“The fact an individual is a removable noncitizen therefore should not alone be the basis of an enforcement action against them,” Alejandro Mayorkas wrote in a memo to the department’s immigration enforcement agencies. “We will use our discretion and focus our enforcement resources in a more targeted way. Justice and our country’s well-being require it.”
On Tuesday, Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) referenced this memo, asking Mayorkas whether this still applied to those who have a final removal order against them.
“We cannot remove 1.2 million individuals,” Mayorkas responded. “I would not necessarily accept the fact that all of them have received due process.”
As Fox News reported, “When asked if any of the 1.2 million people should be deported, Mayorkas said those ‘who pose a public safety threat, who pose a national security threat, who pose a border security threat,’ should be deported from the U.S.”
“Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., defended DHS’s use of ‘prosecutorial discretion’ in deciding which deportation cases to pursue. Coons claimed that ‘an approach that effectively makes any undocumented immigrant a priority is actually making no one a priority,’” Fox continued. “Mayorkas agreed, arguing that discretion is warranted both because DHS has ‘limited resources,’ and also because it is ‘a matter of justice’ not to prioritize those who have become ‘contributing members of our society.’”
In another memo released in October, Mayorkas further limited Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) powers to combat illegal immigration, ordering them to halt mass worksite deportation raids.
The memo was addressed to several officials, including the acting director of ICE, the director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and titled, “Worksite Enforcement: The Strategy to Protect the American Labor Market, the Conditions of the American Worksite, and the Dignity of the Individual.” Mayorkas began the memo, saying, “Thank you for your leadership as we work to more effectively accomplish our Department’s critical missions.”
“Our worksite enforcement efforts can have a significant impact on the well-being of individuals and the fairness of the labor market,” Mayorkas wrote, before stating that the focus of the agency’s efforts should be on the exploitation of “undocumented workers.”
“Our accomplishments in this area make clear that we can maximize the impact of our efforts by focusing on unscrupulous employers who exploit the vulnerability of undocumented workers,” he wrote. “These employers engage in illegal acts ranging from the payment of substandard wages to imposing unsafe working conditions and facilitating human trafficking and child exploitation. Their culpability compels the intense focus of our enforcement resources.”