WASHINGTON — After a Texas judge last week temporarily blocked President Joe Biden’s order to pause deportations for 100 days, immigration agents did not hesitate to use the brief window to defy the incoming president’s new tone.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents moved a 40-year-old Cameroonian asylum seeker to a facility in Louisiana and prepared to deport him, despite his claims of torture in his home country.
“This is not what the Biden administration stands for,” Henry Hollithron, the man’s lawyer, said in an interview. “That is definitely a holdover from the Trump era.”
President Donald Trump often complained about what he called a “deep state” inside the government working to thwart his agenda. But Biden and his secretary of homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas, are already encountering their own pockets of internal resistance, especially at the agencies charged with enforcing the nation’s immigration laws, where the gung-ho culture has long favored the get-tough policies that Trump embraced.
Mayorkas, who was confirmed on Tuesday after a nearly two-week delay by Republicans unhappy about his immigration views, will find a Department of Homeland Security transformed since he was its deputy secretary in the Obama administration. Liberal immigration activists and former Trump administration officials rarely agree on much, but both parties say Mayorkas will struggle to get buy-in for Biden’s immigration agenda from the thousands of border and immigration agents in his sprawling, 240,000-person department.
“There are people in ICE that agree with Trump’s policies,” said Tom Homan, an immigration hard-liner who served as Trump’s ICE director. “They want to do the job they took an oath to do.”
Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, the policy counsel the American Immigration Council, which advocates on behalf of immigrants, agreed that after “four years of a newly empowered and politicized workforce,” ICE and Customs and Border Protection agents are “more likely to push back against an incoming administration than in the past.”