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Illegal immigrant hit-and-run killer won't face deportation due to Biden admin rule changes

Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

An illegal immigrant accused of killing a Texas teenager in a hit-and-run car crash will be spared deportation under the Biden administration's new rules governing who should be removed from the country.

What are the details?

Heriberto Fuerte-Padilla was driving while intoxicated in November 2020 when he smashed his pickup truck into a car driven by 19-year-old Adrienne Sophia Exum, expelling her from her vehicle. Exum died on the scene.

Fuerte-Padilla reportedly tried to flee the area but was picked up by police shortly after and charged with a DWI and failure to render aid.

Though initially requesting that authorities deport Fuerte-Padilla after Texas issued its punishment, the Department of Homeland Security has since dropped its request, arguing he doesn't qualify for priority deportation under new rules issued by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in September, the Washington Times reported.

The outlet added that U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers told Texas authorities that it was also "canceling deportation requests — known as 'detainers' — on other illegal immigrants, including some who pleaded guilty to felony charges of evading arrest or had convictions for drunken driving, drug possession or domestic assault injuring a family member."

Those illegal aliens who were once subject to deportation are no longer considered "priority lifts" under the new rules.

What's the background?

On Sept. 30, Mayorkas issued a memo that outlined a dramatic shift in U.S. immigration enforcement policy. No longer would being in the country illegally be a sufficient cause for that individual's deportation, nor would simply committing a crime.

The new rules — which intended to focus in on only the most serious illegal immigrant targets — specified that an individual must be a "threat to national security," a "threat to public safety," or a recent border crosser to be considered for deportation.

"The fact an individual is a removable noncitizen therefore should not alone be the basis of an enforcement action against them," Mayorkas said in the memo. "We will use our discretion and focus our enforcement resources in a more targeted way. Justice and our country’s well-being require it."

The new "public safety" criterion would prove to be the most difficult to assess.

In the memo, Mayorkas noted that someone would be considered a public safety threat if they committed "serious criminal conduct," before vaguely adding that the determination should not be made "according to bright lines or categories" but rather "the totality of the facts and circumstances."

What else?

It's unclear why the department ultimately determined that Fuerte-Padilla and other illegal immigrant offenders didn't fit the criteria.

But no matter the explanations, the deportation request cancellations are undoubtedly frustrating to local law enforcement.

"Here we have a law enforcement agency handing ICE a criminal alien on a silver platter and ICE saying, 'No thank you,' and then the law enforcement agency saying, 'Really?' And ICE saying, 'No, we really don’t want to take this person,'" Jessica Vaughan, policy studies director at the Center for Immigration Studies, told the Times.

The Times noted that attorneys general in Texas, Louisiana, Arizona, Montana, and Ohio are currently challenging the new DHS rules in court in two separate cases.

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