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BuzzFeed: “An ICE Memo Lays Out The Differences Between Trump And Obama On Immigration Enforcement”

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In a new piece for Buzzfeed, Hamed Aleaziz spotlights an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) memo that unmasks the administration’s cruel and deliberate push to deport as many immigrants as possible. The memo not only encourages attorneys to ignore requests for leniency, but also to reopen any closed cases in order to deport those who had received leniency previously. The purpose: to deport as many immigrants as possible as fast as possible, regardless of mitigating factors or equities.

The piece is excerpted below and available in full here.

Attorneys for Immigration and Customs Enforcement were restricted from granting reprieves for certain immigrants facing deportation, ordered to review and potentially reopen previously closed cases, and told that nearly all undocumented immigrants were priorities for deportation, according to a previously unreleased memo obtained by BuzzFeed News.

The memo, which was issued Aug. 15, 2017, and obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, provided a roadmap for how ICE attorneys were to prosecute cases under the Trump administration. It was written by Tracy Short, ICE’s principal legal adviser and head of the attorneys who handle deportation cases in court.

While immigration lawyers had long reported anecdotally that such changes had taken place in the courtroom, the memo is the first detailed explanation of how government attorneys were told to handle deportation cases and how to implement Trump’s executive order on immigration enforcement issued Jan. 25, 2017.


“The revelation of the memo is important because it shows how the ICE trial attorneys were instructed to stop exercising prosecutorial discretion in all but the most extreme circumstances,” said David Leopold, an immigration attorney at Ulmer and Berne in Cleveland. “The memo changed prosecutorial discretion by all but forbidding ICE prosecutors from using their common sense or showing any compassion.”

Sarah Pierce, a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, said the “memo is in line with the broader interior enforcement goal of the administration: Enforce immigration laws against everyone.”

The memo also directed ICE attorneys to review previously closed cases, instructing them to look for cases that don’t fit the administration’s new immigration enforcement priorities, which include practically all undocumented immigrants, and to prioritize reopening cases in which individuals had a criminal history or evidence of fraud. At the same time, attorneys were told that practically all undocumented immigrants were now priorities for deportation in the court.

As of August 2018, the government had requested the reactivation of nearly 8,000 deportation cases that had been administratively closed. The previous fiscal year, which included nearly four months of the Obama administration, there were nearly 8,400 such requests. The pace of such requests is nearly double that of the last two years of the Obama administration, when there were 3,551 and 4,847 such requests, respectively. Attorney General Jeff Sessions limited the ability for immigration judges to indefinitely suspend deportation cases in June.

“This is an unrelenting, unremitting deportation push. From that point of view, it is eye-opening in its scope, trying to make sure that no stone is unturned,” said a government official familiar with the memo who was not authorized to speak about it. “It systematically took any possibility where some independent judgment could be exercised by a government attorney and made it very clear they know what their marching orders are.”