FIRST ON FOX: House Republicans are accusing the Biden administration of attempting to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) "from within" after the Department of Homeland Security issued new guidelines that enshrine new restrictions on which illegal immigrants agents can target for arrest and deportation.
"While not directly giving in to the radical Left’s calls to abolish ICE, by halting immigration enforcement actions conducted by the agency it is clear you are seeking to in effect abolish ICE from within" the letter says.
The letter, led by Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., is signed by 45 House Republicans including Reps. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., Yvette Herrell, R-N.M., and Nicole Malliotakis, R-NY.
The letter comes after a memo in September confirmed and expanded on restrictions on officers put in place in February which limited arrest priorities to recent border crossers, national security threats and aggravated felons.
The September guidance also states: "The fact an individual is a removable noncitizen therefore should not alone be the basis of an enforcement action against them."
"For the first time, our guidelines will, in the pursuit of public safety, require an assessment of the individual and take into account the totality of the facts and circumstances," Mayorkas said in a statement announcing the memo. The administration has also ended worksite raids and ICE presence outside courtrooms.
The Republicans also note moves by DHS to halt worksite immigration enforcement raids, which had become more common under the Trump administration.
"These highly visible operations misallocated enforcement resources while chilling, and even serving as a retaliation for, worker cooperation in workplace standards investigations," Mayorkas said in a statement last month.
Days later, Mayorkas issued another memo listing a number of "protected areas" where ICE should not take enforcement actions -- including schools, medical facilities, recreation centers, rallies and COVID-19 vaccination areas.
"We can accomplish our law enforcement mission without denying individuals access to needed medical care, children access to their schools, the displaced access to food and shelter, people of faith access to their places of worship, and more. Adherence to this principle is a bedrock of our stature as public servants," Mayorkas said.
The lawmakers warn that the memos "will inevitably serve as additional pull factors" at a time when there is an ongoing crisis at the southern border -- which saw more than 1.7 million migrant encounters in FY 2021 and more than 192,000 in September alone.
"Your recent actions will further exacerbate the ongoing humanitarian, public health, and national security crisis taking place at our southern border and further incentivize lawlessness," they say.
FY 2021 ICE data has not yet been finalized, but it is on track to show around 70,000 administrative arrests by ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) when it is eventually released, Fox News learned last week.
That is down from 103,603 arrests in FY 2020, which in turn was down from 143,099 in FY 2019 and 158,581 in FY 2018. The FY 2021 data was first reported by The Washington Post, which reported that the data is the lowest level in more than a decade.
Republicans have been accused the Biden administration of incentivizing illegal immigration with a number of policies, including most recently a reported plan to pay up to $450,000 per illegal immigrant separated under the Trump administration. President Biden on Wednesday called the reports "garbage."