Weekly Immigration News: On the Vice President and the DHS

With the end of President Biden’s first 100 days, Vice President Kamala Harris still faces many responsibilities tackling immigration’s root causes, as the Department of Homeland Security’s policies and people continue to shift.

  • This past Sunday, Vice President Kamala Harris stated that President Biden’s ultimate immigration goal is to “give people some sense of hope,” adding that immigration is “not going to be solved overnight, it’s a complex issue. If it were easy, it would’ve been solved years ago.” Recently, VP Harris has been placed in charge of overseeing and tackling immigration’s root causes, stating that she plans to address living conditions in nations like Guatemala and Mexico as part of her plan. Harris has also cited that part of the difficulty is attempting to rebuild international relationships following Trump-era events but noted that a few government departments are attempting to institute policies to help improve immigration issues.
  • Kamala Harris has just passed her one hundred day mark as Vice President of the United States, and according to a Politico report, although many worry that her drive to gain President Biden’s trust is leading her on a downhill slope, people around her believe that her choices are reasonable.  One of her confidants has stated that Harris’ actions are reflective of her desire “to be actively engaged in government and that’s determined by how much authority Biden gives her [a]nd how much authority he gives her is based on how much he trusts her.” Others, including Tina Flournoy, Harris’ chief of staff, also noted that Biden relies on her opinion to make decisions and that despite her loss with the “ideological left,” she is still making strides as a woman of color in office.  
  • In a Tuesday statement, Alejandro Mayorkas, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary, announced that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents would no longer be allowed to arrest people in or around courthouses for immigrant-related violations. Only arrests related to matters of national security, risks of death, injury or violence, threats to public safety, destruction of evidence for a criminal case, will be allowed. Previously under Trump-era policies, ICE was allowed to enter courthouses to arrest immigrants regardless of their reason for being in court.
  • In addition to the changes in ICE arrest policies, the DHS is starting a new initiative to target international immigrant-smuggling organizations that work over the US-Mexico border. Called “Operation Sentinel,” the DHS will work alongside the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the State Department to prevent these organizations from profiting. Although Title 42, a Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) policy that expels immigrants entering the United States illegally, has been criticized for causing these human smugglers to raise their prices, Mayorkas stated that the policy would remain in place “until [it] is no longer needed.”
  • Finally, President Biden has recently nominated Ed Gonzalez, a Texas sheriff, to lead DHS’s ICE agency. Gonzales, who has served as sheriff of Harris County for four years, has also served 18 years as a sergeant in the Houston Police Department. If confirmed by the Senate, Biden’s pick would be the first permanent director of ICE since 2017.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

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