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WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 3, 2021) — A group of 120 law professors and legal experts sent a letter late Tuesday to newly confirmed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas urging the agency to use all the tools of prosecutorial discretion at its disposal to comply with the Biden administration’s interior enforcement immigration policies and stop ongoing deportations of asylum seekers and families.

The letter describes the legal rationale for DHS’s expansive authority to exercise prosecutorial discretion at every stage of immigration enforcement, including the critical decision of whether or not to deport an individual.  President Biden and DHS issued an Executive Order and memo on January 21 calling for a top-to-bottom review of DHS enforcement actions and implementing a narrow set of interim enforcement priorities, with the stated goal of reconsidering how the United States enforces its immigration laws. Yet thousands of immigrants remain suffering in immigration detention and hundreds have been deported to harm in recent days.

“Unnecessarily restricting agency discretion, without legal justification, will inevitably result in the continuation of enforcement practices that send asylum seekers back to their persecutors and destabilize families and communities,” the professors state in the letter.

The professors and experts joined together in the letter in response to increasing alarm about deportation flights which have occurred in recent days and are still being scheduled for this week to Jamaica; the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Cameroon; and Honduras; as well as last Friday’s deportation to Mexico of a witness in the 2019 El Paso Walmart massacre. An additional deportation flight scheduled for Tuesday evening was intended to remove families who have been detained at the family detention center in Dilley, Texas. Fortunately, advocates convinced DHS to stop these deportations.

The professors are joining a growing chorus of advocates, faith leaders, and members of Congress calling for the Biden administration to hold ICE officers accountable to Executive Orders and memoranda that reflect the president’s intention to rebuild the immigration system in a way that respects human rights and due process.