A memorandum from acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Tae Johnson is handcuffing agents from doing their job, according to a new report.

The Feb. 4 internal memo, confidentially obtained by Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), severely restricts ICE operations. Per the guidance, “ICE can arrest only those criminal aliens who are actually in the custody of authorities — in other words, inmates,” Vaughan related.

“Aliens have to be in custody to touch them. But sanctuary jurisdictions don’t communicate information on releases,” Vaughan told FAIR in an interview. “If [aliens]are released due to sanctuary policies, the ICE officer must submit a request to arrest the released criminal alien all the way up the chain of command to be approved by Johnson,” Vaughan reports.

Vaughan’s sources in the agency told her that Johnson has received 300 such requests, but approved only three so far. “Essentially, at-large enforcement has been shut down,” the CIS director of policy studies said.

The Washington Post reported last week that ICE officials were preparing additional guidelines that “could sharply curb arrests and deportations.” On Thursday, ICE issued “interim guidance” that purports to focus on threats to national security, border security and public safety. The enforcement rules include requirements for administrative pre-approval “on an individualized basis.”

While the Biden administration’s 100-day pause on deportations remains suspended by a federal judge’s temporary restraining order, Vaughan found that removals of criminal aliens have been restricted.

Since the court order does not require that deportations be scheduled, only aliens classified as current aggravated felons, or the most serious criminals in custody of local authorities, remain subject to removal. Contrary to some media assertions that ICE intends to concentrate its resources on “serious” criminals, Vaughan concludes that Johnson’s protocols “excuse any and all serious crimes that were committed in the past.”

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