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Biden administration drops plan for ICE deportation pause after legal defeat

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Deportation freeze was a Biden campaign promise

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May 25, 2021

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The Biden administration has dropped its effort to impose a 100-day moratorium on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deportations after a legal effort from Texas blocked the Biden campaign promise from taking place — with the administration saying the time for it to go into effect has now passed.

Then-candidate Joe Biden had promised to pause deportations, with very few exceptions, during the 2020 campaign. On Inauguration Day, then-acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske signed a memo that included such a pause to go into effect Jan 22.

Texas immediately sued, eventually winning the legal battle when a federal judge placed an indefinite block on the policy.

“The 100-day period during which DHS would have paused the execution of certain final removal orders has now otherwise expired and would no longer be in effect under the terms of the memorandum,” a DHS statement said. “DHS does not intend to extend or reinstate a policy requiring a pause on the execution of final orders of removal for any noncitizens.”

The May 5 release, which does not appear on DHS’s press release page, was first reported by BuzzFeed News.

It is unlikely, however, to stop the legal battle over ICE policies. The administration went on to issue ICE guidance that dramatically narrows enforcement priorities to recent border crossers, “aggravated felons” and national security threats — guidance that has coincided with a dramatic drop in ICE arrests and deportations.

Republican states such as Arizona and Montana have sued over the new guidance, arguing that it is an effort to achieve the same results as the 100-day deportation moratorium and that it would lead to an increase in criminals, drugs and COVID-19 in their states and is in violation of federal law. They also claim it would lead to an increase in healthcare and other public assistance costs in the states.

As part of that lawsuit, an email emerged showing that ICE officials predicted that the number of “book-ins” would drop by 50%.

In its statement, DHS said that the guidance “has allowed ICE to focus on furthering the security and safety of our communities.”

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