Eighteen state attorney generals pleaded with President Biden Thursday, to reverse a recent decision by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to shelve an operation that targeted illegal immigrants with sex crime convictions.
Operation Talon was suspended late last month, after being operational for just a few weeks before the Trump administration vacated the White House.
“The cancellation of this program effectively broadcasts to the world that the United States is now a sanctuary jurisdiction for sexual predators,” Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said in a letter to President Biden Thursday. “This message creates a perverse incentive for foreign sexual predators to seek to enter the United States illegally and assault more victims, both in the process of unlawful migration and after they arrive.”
Schmitt, along with 17 other state attorneys general, requested that Biden, as well as leading officials in the Department of Homeland Security and ICE, reactivate Operation Talon.
An ICE spokesperson told Fox News that, “Due to operational security, we are not able to confirm or discuss future operations until they are complete.”
But in a letter obtained by Fox News to ICE employees Thursday, Acting Director Tae Johnson issued interim operating guidelines “that will temporarily govern its civil immigration enforcement and removal operations.”
The new guidelines on immigration enforcement duties will be effective until DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issues new enforcement procedures – which he is expected to release within 90 days.
But while ICE officials could not comment on Operation Talon, Johnson noted in his letter to the department’s staff that his request for certain revisions to the enforcement plans issued by Biden-appointed Acting Secretary David Pekoske on Jan. 20 has been approved. These include apprehensions of gang members and priority noncitizens encountered during law enforcement operations.
Fox News could not immediately reach the White House or DHS for comment on the letter, but the Biden administration has taken steps to alter U.S. policies on immigration by attempting to put a 100-day moratorium on deportations and authorizing coronavirus vaccinations for undocumented migrants.
The DHS also released a statement earlier this month pledging that ICE and Border Protection officials “will not conduct enforcement operations at or near vaccine distribution sites or clinics.”
Though arguably the most sweeping reform could come in the form of Biden’s latest immigration bill announced Thursday, which will create an eight-year path to citizenship for millions of undocumented migrants and fast tracks citizenship for migrants brought over as children.
“The last four years of misguided policies have exacerbated the already broken immigration system and highlighted the critical need for reform,” Biden said in a statement Thursday, adding that he wants to “modernize” the U.S.’s immigration system.
The bill is expected to receive pushback, particularly in the Senate, where Democrats currently do not have the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster.
But White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Thursday, the bill is simply a starting point to open up debate on modernizing immigration policies.
“There are negotiations that will need to happen,” Psaki said. “There was a reset that was really needed to get an immigration bill discussed and negotiated, and that is what our effort is to do here.”