Former Vice President and current 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Monday he would instruct Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) not to deport illegal immigrants caught drunk driving.
Biden made his comments during a 2020 Vice News Election Forum. Biden said if he won the presidency he would issue an executive order instructing ICE to only carry out deportations of illegal immigrants convicted of felony charges, “and I don’t consider drunk driving a felony.”
Biden served as Vice President for President Barack Obama, who instituted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program during his presidency. DACA allows children brought to the U.S. by illegal immigrant parents to receive deferred action in deportation cases.
In his remarks, Biden said there is still a culture within ICE that causes the children of illegal immigrants to fear for their security and wonder whether or not they can expect to see their parents deported at any given moment. Biden said many children of illegal immigrants go to school wondering if their mother will be arrested by ICE when they pick them up from school.
“I would hold ICE agents accountable if in fact they stepped over my executive orders, which is no arrest of any kind outside of the schools,” he said.
Biden said he would also combat the ICE culture that causes fear among the children of illegal immigrants by firing ICE agents that carry out arrests and deportations that go beyond Biden’s guidelines for immigration enforcement.
“You change the culture by saying, ‘you’re gonna get fired.’ ‘You’re fired,’ if in fact you do that,” Biden said. “You only arrest for the purpose of dealing with a felony that’s committed, and I don’t consider drunk driving as a felony.”
According to FindLaw, states will typically charge a first-time DUI/DWI offense as a misdemeanor, however repeat offenses and cases where an intoxicated driver causes harm to other drivers are often treated as felony offenses.
There have been several high profile cases involving fatalities stemming from illegal immigrants caught driving under the influence. In February of 2018, Indianapolis Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson and another man were killed when a drunk driving, twice-deported illegal immigrant struck their car.
Biden’s comments come in contrast to President Donald Trump’s emphasis on stricter immigration law enforcement during his presidency, including expanding the expedited removal process used in some deportation cases..
Biden’s comments did appear to imply ICE will continue to function under his presidency, despite calls last year by some Democrats to abolish the agency.
In a separate set of comments during a campaign event on Tuesday, Biden suggested DACA recipients are “more American than most Americans.”
“These kids have come, they’ve done well, most of these kids there’s a lot of them, and they’re not just Hispanic, they’re Asian-Pacific Islanders as well,:” Biden said. “And they in fact have done very well. In many cases, they’re more American than most Americans because they have done well in school.”