Trump Loyalists Throughout Homeland Safety May Vex Biden’s Immigration Insurance policies

WASHINGTON – After a Texas judge temporarily blocked President Biden’s order to halt deportations for 100 days last week, immigration officials did not hesitate to use the short window to break with the incoming president’s new tone.

Immigration and Customs agents moved a 40-year-old Cameroonian asylum seeker to a facility in Louisiana and prepared to deport him to his home country despite allegations of torture.

“That’s not what the Biden administration stands for,” said Henry Hollithron, the man’s lawyer, in an interview. “This is definitely a holdover from the Trump era.”

President Donald J. Trump often complained of a so-called “deep state” within the government that was working to thwart its agenda. But Mr Biden and his minister for homeland security, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, are already encountering their own pockets of internal resistance, especially with the authorities tasked with enforcing immigration laws in the country where the Gung-Ho culture has long been the get-go – tough guidelines that Mr. Trump adopted.

Mr Mayorkas, who was sustained Tuesday after nearly two weeks late by Republicans unhappy with his immigration views, will reshape a homeland security department since he was its deputy secretary in the Obama administration. Liberal immigration activists and former Trump administration officials rarely agree, but both parties say Mr Mayorkas will struggle to get involved in Mr Biden’s immigration agenda from thousands of border and immigration officials in his sprawling division of 240,000 people.

“There are people on ICE who approve of Trump’s policies,” said Tom Homan, a hard-line immigration officer who served as Mr. Trump’s ICE director. “You want to do the job for which you swore an oath.”

Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, the American Immigration Council’s policy advisor, who works on behalf of immigrants, agreed that after “four years of newly qualified and politicized workforce” ICE and customs and border guards are more likely to push back against in-depth management than in the past. “

Mr Biden campaigned to hold government immigration to account, but is already facing a daunting challenge in overhauling a department unmatched in terms of close coordination with Mr Trump.

Videos to celebrate Mr. Trump’s “big, beautiful” border wall can still be found on the Customs and Border Protection website. A fictional agency video showing Mr. Trump’s portrayal of migrants as feared criminals can still be seen on Border Patrol’s official social media channels. And the union that represents ICE agents – whose leaders have been ardent supporters of Mr Trump – has signaled that it does not intend to accept any reversals of its policies by the new administration.

These agents may have gotten a lift in the dwindling days of Mr. Trump’s administration as Trump loyalists tried to codify the influence of these unions. The day before Mr Biden’s inauguration, union leaders signed a working agreement with Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, a hardline immigration officer and deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, requiring the ICE’s political leadership to consult the union on policy decisions.

If the deal stands, it could undercut Mr Biden’s instructions to law enforcement, including guidelines that went into effect on Monday requiring ICE officers to focus arrests on violent criminals.

“You won’t be able to get people to change their ingrained beliefs,” Stephen Miller, the architect of Mr. Trump’s immigration policy, said of many career Homeland Security officials. “They will make it painfully clear to politicians what the consequences will be if their advice is not followed.”

The emergence of encouraged resistance within the Biden government is not limited to Homeland Security. Bags of government employees who are loyal to Mr. Trump and his agenda remain anchored in other parts of the bureaucracy.

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Apr. 3, 2021 at 12:26 AM ET

Andrew Veprek, an ally of Mr. Miller and former Assistant Assistant Secretary of State for Refugees and Migration, has been replaced by a veteran in the administration of President Barack Obama. But Mr Veprek, a professional Foreign Service official, has returned to the Foreign Office.

Michael Ellis, a Trump loyalist, was named the National Security Agency’s best lawyer in the days leading up to Mr. Biden’s inauguration. He was taken on administrative leave while investigating his appointment but remains an employee of the Agency. And there are still professional attorneys at the Justice Department who defended many of Mr. Trump’s policies, including family separation on the border.

Mr Biden is also facing the politically difficult decision to remove two Inspector General appointed by Mr Trump: Eric Soskin, the Inspector General of the Transportation Department, and Brian D. Miller, a former Trump White House attorney who was appointed to investigate abuses last year Was tapped into pandemic spending.

Not everyone who works for Mr. Mayorkas will reject the new approach.

Some Homeland Security officials have been frustrated with the revolving door of incumbent leadership within the agencies under Mr. Trump’s administration. And a division of ICE investigating longer-term cases of human traffickers and terrorists has even asked to part ways with immigration so that this is not related to Mr Trump’s efforts to crack down on undocumented immigrants.

Gil Kerlikowske, former Commissioner for Customs and Border Protection, said in an interview that border officials would most likely respect the chain of command no matter who the agency’s leader is, but regaining the confidence of the American public will prove to be a challenge.

Shortly after he was confirmed on Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Mayorkas wrote to his staff pledging his support and sharing his expectations. “We will act with integrity and humility,” Mayorkas said in an email to the New York Times. “We will be open, transparent and accountable.”

Still, Mr. Miller remarked, “It will be most intense at DHS.”

Mr Homan said morale at the agency had been “flushed in the bathroom” since Mr Biden began issuing executive orders in the past two weeks, and he predicted that some in the bureaucracy would try the new one Undermine presidents.

“This is how everyone attacked the Trump administration by losing things,” said Homan. “People are now taking a page from that playbook. I think turnaround is fair play. “

It’s already happening. Shortly after the Department of Homeland Security issued a memo from Mr. Biden setting new enforcement priorities and interrupting deportations, an internal email to an ICE Houston branch landed on Fox News. The email suggested the release of some imprisoned immigrants. it sparked a firestorm in conservative news media. (Mr Biden has not issued a policy on the release of immigrant detainees).

Mr Miller predicted that Homeland Security officials who oppose Mr Biden’s policies would put their concerns in writing to document for future legal challenges that Conservative activists are sure to file.

Mr Reichlin-Melnick, whose organization has questioned Mr Trump’s policies in the judicial system, said it was vital for Mr Mayorkas and Mr Biden to ensure that their instructions are actually followed by the grassroots in the department.

“The next month or two will be really defining for the administration,” he said.

For some immigrants, this might be too long. ICE deported nearly 350 undocumented immigrants to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador on Friday, the agency said in a statement.

In a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, House Justice Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York said the action “raises serious questions about the agency’s commitment to compliance with its own policies.” Around 120 law professors and legal experts sent a letter to Mr Mayorkas on Tuesday evening, in which they criticized the agency for not exercising judicial discretion.

Mr Hollithron said his client fled Cameroon after being tortured when he was accused of assisting separatists in the civil war there. Mr Hollithron said his client actually only marched in protests.

He traveled to Central America and traveled north, where he arrived on the border with the United States in June 2019. There he was subject to Mr. Trump’s “metering” rule, which limited the number of migrants per day who could apply for protection at border crossing points.

He has been detained since September 2019. While an immigration judge rejected his asylum application last year, citing the need for further evidence to back his claims, Mr Hollithron was still fighting in court and filed an emergency stay with his client last Sunday a removal.

However, this order is only temporary. The future of Mr. Hollithron’s customer remains uncertain.

“It will take some time for the administration to come down and do a top-down check,” Hollithron said.

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