During the presidential campaign, both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were outspoken opponents of the Trump administration’s immigration priorities.
UNITED STATES (AP) – President Joe Biden’s administration deported hundreds of immigrants in its first days, despite his campaign promise that he would stop deporting most people illegally in the United States since the beginning of his term.
Last week, a federal judge ordered the Biden administration not to implement a 100-day moratorium on deportations, but the ruling did not require the government to schedule them. In recent days, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported immigrants to at least three countries: 15 people to Jamaica on Thursday, January 28, and 269 to Guatemala and Honduras on Friday, January 29. More deportation flights were scheduled for Monday.
It is unknown how many of those individuals are considered threats to national security or public safety or had recently crossed the border illegally, which are considered priority cases under new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) guidelines that went into effect on Monday, February 1.
Some of those repatriated may have been removed (a faster process than deportation) based on a public health order that former President Donald Trump invoked during the coronavirus pandemic and that Biden upheld.
In the border city of El Paso, Texas, immigration authorities on Friday deported a woman who witnessed the massacre of 22 people at a Walmart in 2019. She had agreed to testify against the attacker and met with local prosecutors, according to her attorneys.
The woman was flagged down Wednesday while driving because a brake light was not working on her vehicle; she was detained based on previous traffic citations, then transferred to ICE, which deported her before she could contact her attorney, said Melissa Lopez, executive director of the nonprofit Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, which represents her.
Jail records confirm that Rosa was booked into the El Paso jail on Wednesday and was released on Friday. On the day of her arrest, ICE issued what is known as a “detainer” to keep her behind bars for immigration violations, according to El Paso County police.
The district attorney’s office in the same city confirmed in a statement Monday that it had given Rosa’s lawyers the necessary documentation to apply for a U.S. visa for crime victims. But the report also said Rosa “is not a victim in the Walmart shooting case.” The prosecution did not respond to follow-up questions at this time.
ICE noted Friday that it had deported people to Jamaica and did so according to a court order last week. The agency did not respond to several requests for further comment on other deportation flights or Rosa’s case.
Honduran officials confirmed that 131 people were aboard a deportation flight that landed Friday. Another flight that arrived in Guatemala on Friday brought 138 people, and 30 more people are expected to arrive on Monday, local officials said.
Two legal experts say that regardless of the judge’s order on the moratorium on deportations, ICE could release immigrants with deportation orders, keep people in detention or otherwise delay the deportation process.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton granted a temporary injunction sought by Texas that prohibits enforcement of a 100-day moratorium on deportations that had taken effect January 22. Tipton said the Biden administration had violated the federal Administrative Procedures Act in issuing the moratorium and had failed to show why a pause was necessary.
Tipton said Friday that he would extend his order until February 23. The Justice Department has not yet asked Tipton or a federal appeals court to block the order.
The White House reissued a statement Friday saying it believes the moratorium is “entirely appropriate,” adding that “President Biden remains committed to acting immediately to reform our immigration system to ensure it preserves American values while keeping our communities safe.”
Biden is expected to issue a series of executive orders related to immigration on Tuesday, February 2. It is estimated that those orders will include the formation of a task force to reunite families separated during the Trump administration.
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