Immigration and Customs Enforcement will consider military service as a significant factor that weighs against taking enforcement action in deportation cases, according to a policy directive published Tuesday.
ICE said that the U.S. military service of a non-citizen and their immediate family members will be taken into account when deciding whether to deport someone or take other immigration enforcement measures.
ICE values the incredible contributions of non-citizens who have served in the U.S. military, ICE acting director Tae Johnson said in the statement. A non-citizen or their immediate family members will be considered by the U.S. military service when deciding whether to take civil immigration enforcement decisions against a non-citizen. In May 23rd, the agency said that military service is a significant factor that weighs against taking enforcement action in an immigration case, although each case must be decided on the totality of the circumstances.
The directive says that civil immigration enforcement actions will not be taken against those in active U.S. military service unless there are significant aggravating factors in the case.
Military service of immediate family members will be considered a factor in immigration cases, according to the memo.
The document lists procedures for verifying military status, documenting and screening.
Prior to this directive, the agency had recognized military service as a significant factor in case-by-case decisions, but this new directive formalizes this practice as an official agency policy. The length of service, type of discharge and other factors will also be taken into account when considering military service, ICE said.
The directive requires it to collect and keep relevant data related to non-citizen current and former service members, according to the directive.
A 2019 report by the Government Accountability Office found that ICE did not adhere to its policies for handling cases involving veterans and did not consistently identify and track them. The administration of President Donald Trump had directed ICE to focus on anyone who was in the U.S. without legal authorization for immigration enforcement.
The government watchdog said that ICE did not consistently follow its policies involving veterans who were placed in removal proceedings from fiscal years 2013 through 2018. It said that regular implementation of its policies would help ICE make sure veterans receive appropriate levels of review before they are placed in removal proceedings. ICE does not maintain complete electronic data when agents and officers encounter a veteran, and ICE has not developed a policy to identify and document all military veterans it encounters during interviews. ICE does not have a reasonable assurance that it is implementing its policies for handling veterans cases. The GAO looked at 250 veterans who were placed in removal proceedings from 2013 to 2018 and found 92 were deported.