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SPLC: Communities Across the South Know All Too Well the Detrimental Effects of ICE’s Continued Enforcement Practices

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) yesterday issued a memo establishing interim guidance on the scope of interior enforcement activity for the next 90 days. The following statement is from Laura Rivera, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative. 

“If yesterday’s new immigration bill was a step forward for justice, ICE’s new enforcement memo is a step backward. This memo takes the wrong approach to keeping communities safe, and instead hands ICE the power to continue to harm our communities and tear families apart. It doubly punishes Black and Brown people who are pulled into a flawed criminal legal system through practices like racial profiling and harsh sentencing, and hands those very same people over to ICE for more punishment.

“Under the guidance, ICE maintains the authority to conduct aggressive raids like those that targeted and detained families in Atlanta in 2016. The guidance will result in the continued use of detainer requests, to the detriment of Black and Brown people, like Peter Sean Brown, a U.S. citizen who was detained in South Florida and handed over to ICE for deportation. With this new memo, and relying on its faulty databases, ICE might very well classify Mr. Brown as a ‘threat’ and issue the same detainer.  

“The guidance will continue to impact communities of color particularly hard in Southern states, where local law enforcement is riddled with discriminatory practices and racial profiling. The memo grants overly broad discretion to ICE to classify people as ‘threats’ and to target them based on ill-defined categories. Instead of focusing on public health and family unity, the ICE memo continues to employ an enforcement lens, even for what is, at its core, a humanitarian issue. People seeking asylum who cross the border out of desperation are not threats. 

“What’s more, the new ‘gang-related’ public safety category allows ICE to target Black, Brown and Indigenous young people based solely on the agency’s determination that they are part of a gang – which will likely rely on the federal government’s secretive, racist and unreliable gang databases. 

“ICE has recklessly targeted communities of color for far too long, and these communities know all too well that ICE’s pervasive tactics result in racial profiling, corrode trust in local law enforcement and actually make communities less safe. Instead of more of this same, flawed approach that criminalizes migration, we need a vision that puts community safety, public health and family unity first. The Biden-Harris administration has a unique opportunity to re-envision immigration law and policy in this country. To do so, it must focus on protecting people who have experienced abuse and exploitation, addressing the culture of impunity at ICE and ending the worst practices of the previous administration, rather than once again creating categories of people who will be prioritized for deportation.”