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ICE is disproportionately targeting Black deportations. Photo: Facebook, Laura Brett, AL DÍA File.
ICE is disproportionately targeting Black deportations. Photo: Facebook, Laura Brett, AL DÍA File.

Reps. Ritchie Torres, Mondaire Jones, others urge Sec. Mayorkas to stop mass deportations

ICE’s continued deportations are in violation of President Biden’s 100-day moratorium. What will he or DHS Secretary Mayorkas do about it?

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Despite federal orders from the President, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has continued to conduct mass deportations. 

Refusing to comply with President Biden’s 100-day moratorium on deportations, ICE has garnered an uptick in criticism, with a growing number of Congress members calling for the Department of Homeland Security to intervene. Others, like the Progressive caucus, are pusing for a “new, just vision,” altogether.

President Biden unveiled his immigration agenda on inauguration day, and his homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, was later confirmed by the Senate, but the continued deportations under ICE suggest his administration still does not have full control of the federal agency, which faces several allegations of human rights abuses.

On Feb. 8, members of the Congressional Black Caucus stepped in to address DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, demanding that ICE halt mass deportations of Black immigrants, including one of Rep. Mondaire Jones’ (D-NY) constituents in Rockland County, New York. 

Other signers include Reps. Ritchie Torres (D-NY), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Val Demings (D-FL), Karen Bass (D-CA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Marc Veasey (D-TX), and Nikema Williams (D-GA).

“We can’t sit by while ICE blatantly ignores @POTUS’ order & continues to deport planes full of Black people,” wrote Rep. Jones in a tweet. 

ICE is already notorious for its treatment of immigrants from Mexico and Central America, but the federal agency has also disproportionately targeted Black asylum-seekers and immigrants for deportation.

The letter express “grave” concern that ICE is “disparately” targeting Black asylum seekers and immigrants for detention, torture, and deportation. Many are coerced and abused within for-profit institutions. 

Back in the late Summer of 2020, accounts of horrific human rights violations suffered by Cameroonian immigrants at the hands of ICE surfaced. 

A coalition of immigrant rights groups reported asylum seekers were tortured and forced to approve their own deportations. Since the reports were first made, ICE’s actions haven’t subsided, even with the deportation moratorium.

These immigrants hail from countries like Haiti, Cameroon, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ethiopia, but many are also getting deported back to foreign countries.

Rep. Jones says this is the case of his constituent Paul Pierrilus, a 40-year-old financial consultant from New York state, who is not a Haitian citizen, and has never been to Haiti

“In the dark, early hours of Tuesday, February 2, 2021, ICE deported Paul Pierrilus to Haiti. Mr. Pierrilus is not a citizen of Haiti. Mr. Pierrilus had never even been to Haiti. And Mr. Pierrilus could not lawfully be removed to Haiti. Haiti is roughly 1,500 miles from the Rockland County, New York community that has long welcomed Mr. Pierrilus as a beloved neighbor. In spite of these facts, ICE deported Mr. Pierrilus anyway,” reads the letter by the CBC signers.

The allegations against ICE and its perceived status as a “rogue agency”  have not been addressed by both the President or Secretary Mayorkas.

To this regard, the Black Caucus is urging Mayorkas to address its concerns. Namely, why ICE is proceeding to deport despite the moratorium.

The letter also draws attention to Acting Secretary David Pekoske’s enforcement guidance on ICE’s authority. Pekoske’s guidance states that the Acting Director of ICE “shall issue operational guidance on the implementation of these priorities” and “ensure consistency.” 

The question is, what guidance has ICE issued in response to Pekoske’s directive, and what “guidance” did Pekoske issue to ICE?

The letter also asks whether Mayorkas will exercise his authority to formally disapprove of the Jan. 19 agreement between ICE and the National ICE Council (NIC).

The terms of agreement grant the NIC 118, the union representing thousands of ICE employees, powers to delay changes to immigration enforcement policies and practices. The CBC has marked Feb. 17 as Mayorkas’ deadline to formally disapprove of ICE’s agreement with the NIC.

To end, the CBC asks Mayorkas whether there will be steps for constituents like Pierrilus to return to the United States, and if there is a deadline to do so. 

“This rogue agency must be investigated and they must answer to this inquiry in order to help us understand what is happening with recent deportations that are of grave concern to us,” Rep. Torres wrote.

Biden and his administration have promised sweeping reform, but with a rogue federal entity conducting deportations and taking liberties to exercise its own authority, the immigration system has yet to meet the threshold. 

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