The decision to temporarily halt deportations was made “to ensure we have a fair and effective immigration enforcement system focused on protecting national security, border security, and public safety,” according to a DHS news release. The moratorium, which Biden had pledged to impose during his campaign, will start Friday.
The pause is intended to allow time for an internal review.
“(W)e must ensure that our removal resources are directed to the Department’s highest enforcement priorities,” the memo reads, later adding: “The process shall provide for assessments of alternatives to removal including, but not limited to, staying or reopening cases, alternative forms of detention, custodial detention, whether to grant temporary deferred action, or other appropriate action.”
Acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske directed the department’s three immigration agencies to review policies and practices relating to immigration enforcement, citing in part ongoing challenges at the US-Mexico border, according to the memo.
“The United States faces significant operational challenges at the southwest border as it is confronting the most serious global public health crisis in a century,” the memo reads. “In light of those unique circumstances, the Department must surge resources to the border in order to ensure safe, legal and orderly processing, to rebuild fair and effective asylum procedures that respect human rights and due process, to adopt appropriate public health guidelines and protocols, and to prioritize responding to threats to national security, public safety, and border security.”
The memo also sets up priorities for enforcement, marking a return to Obama-era practices. Those categories include national security, border security and public safety.
This story has been updated with additional reporting.