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COVID-19: ICE focuses removal and detention on public safety risks

  1. Date Announced

    March 18, 2020

    COVID-19: ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations is focusing enforcement on public safety risks and individuals subject to mandatory detention based on criminal grounds, while exercising discretion to enforce or to use alternatives to detention for individuals outside these criteria. ICE will not carry out enforcement operations at or near health care facilities, such as hospitals, doctors' offices, accredited health clinics, and emergent or urgent care facilities, except in the most extraordinary of circumstances. [ID #454]

    View Policy Document
  2. Effective Date of Change

    March 18, 2020
  3. Subsequent Action

    September 29, 2020

    The idea for a campaign publicizing criminal arrests in sanctuary jurisdictions has been floated repeatedly during the Trump administration, two officials said, and was actively under consideration this spring before the coronavirus pandemic. After the outbreak, ICE deferred some of its enforcement plans, citing health risks, and during that time, the agency’s arrests dropped by about one-third, statistics show. The decision by then-acting director Matt Albence was popular with ICE personnel who worried about exposing their families to the novel coronavirus, but Trump administration officials were irritated and wanted the president to be able to run on a campaign of tough enforcement, according to ICE and DHS officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to get into trouble with the White House. Albence retired last month.

    ICE preparing targeted arrests in ‘sanctuary cities,’ amplifying president’s campaign theme
  4. Subsequent Action

    Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials arrested more than 100 immigrants across California in an operation last week, the latest effort by the agency to target the state and its policies that reduce the cooperation between local police and federal agents when it comes to immigration enforcement. The details of the operation, which occurred last week in Northern and Southern California and were described to BuzzFeed News by a source with knowledge of it. For subsequent ICE press release, see

    ICE Arrested More Than 100 Immigrants In California Weeks Before The Presidential Election
Status: Reported
Type of Action: Change in Practice
Agencies Affected: ICE

Prior Policies

  • A February 2017 memo from ICE Executive Associate Director Matthew Albence ordered all officers in the Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) unit to “take enforcement action against all removable aliens encountered in the course or their duties," noting that DHS no longer exempts classes or categories of noncitizens from enforcement. However, the memo still directed ERO officers to prioritize noncitizens who have been convicted or charged with a criminal offense.

    ICE Memo: Implementing the President's Border Security and Interior Immigration Enforcement Policies

Subsequent Actions

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