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Help immigrants and asylum seekers arriving in our communities!

The U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) Office of the Principal Legal Advisor yesterday issued a 17-page memorandum (the “Doyle memo”) encouraging ICE prosecuting attorneys to act favorably in cases of immigrants whom the Biden administration does not consider to be a priority for immigration enforcement.

The National Immigrant Justice Center and the National Immigration Project (NIPNLG) issued the following statement in response:

“This memo is an important reminder to ICE attorneys that they have the authority to dismiss cases, agree to lawful protections for immigrants defending against removal, and act in other favorable ways that advance justice while reducing the immigration court’s crushing backlog. However, because it relies on the framework issued by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in September 2021, it continues to double down on some of the most harmful aspects of the Biden administration’s approach to immigration enforcement, including labeling human beings as 'risks' and categorizing arriving asylum seekers and people who have had prior contacts with the criminal legal system as enforcement priorities.

“Under the Doyle memo, an individual designated as a 'priority' is unlikely to receive any favorable decision or action from an ICE attorney over the course of their immigration court case. In practice, a determination made by one ICE attorney that could be based on the date they arrived at the border or a mistake from years earlier could work to deprive a person of relief or important opportunities to be heard. Per the text of the memo, for example, ICE attorneys will be unlikely to agree to seek a short continuance or adjournment from the court for those who are considered priorities for enforcement, even when necessary for the person to find a lawyer or gather evidence.

“The Doyle memo also fails to offer any meaningful transparency regarding prosecutorial decisions. It offers no mechanism for individuals to know whether the ICE attorneys prosecuting for detention and deportation categorize their case as a 'priority' or 'non-priority.'  ICE attorneys are not required to publicly document the basis for their individual decisions — making it harder for immigrants to know what evidence to submit to encourage ICE to make just prosecutorial decisions.

“The Doyle memo opens up opportunities for ICE prosecutors to ensure that those fleeing harm are able to find the safety that comes with a grant of asylum, or to agree that a long-time community member should not be deported away from their family and community. However, for this memo to be used as a tool for justice, DHS leadership must implement robust oversight and accountability measures — and take steps to abandon its flawed, criminalizing framework.”