New ICE Deportations Policy

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Nobody saw this coming.

On Tuesday (June 7), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a new policy that would see illegal immigrants’ military service — or a family member’s military service — considered when deciding whether or not to deport them from the country.

Tuesday’s policy announcement formalizes a directive issued last month which instructed officials to consider an illegal immigrant’s — or their immediate family’s — service in the U.S. military before taking enforcement action like deportation.

Military service includes the United States Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy, and National Guard, with reserve components also being considered.

The policy directs agents not to initiate deportations against immigrants eligible for citizenship based on their service or deport those currently serving. The directive also extends to interviews, instructing agents to ask immigrants if they are serving, have served, or if a family member serves or has served in the U.S. military.

However, the policy doesn’t state that military service history should prevent an immigrant from being deported, but that it should be “a significant mitigating factor that weighs against taking enforcement action.”

In a statement announcing the policy, Tae Johnson, acting ICE Director, said, “ICE values the incredible contributions of noncitizens who have served in the U.S. military.” Johnson added, “Through this directive, ICE will consider U.S. military service by a noncitizen or their immediate family members when determining whether to take civil immigration enforcement decisions against a noncitizen.”

Recently, the Biden administration has limited the scope for ICE agents and officers to enforce immigration law, directing agents to focus on three categories when deporting illegal immigrants: recent border crossers, national security threats, and threats to public safety.

These directives have resulted in the Biden administration deporting substantially fewer illegal immigrants than the Trump administration.