Deportations by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement fell sharply last year under President Joe Biden to the lowest levels in the agency’s history despite record-high border crossings, according to statistics released Friday in an annual report.
During the 2021 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, ICE recorded 59,011 deportations, down from 185,884 in 2020. The lower numbers were partly the result of enforcement changes triggered by the coronavirus pandemic that have allowed U.S. agents to rapidly expel unlawful border crossers under the Title 42 public health code, a procedure that does not count as a formal deportation.
But another gauge of ICE enforcement activity – immigration arrests in the U.S. interior – also showed a significant drop relative to historic averages. Officers working for ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) made about 74,082 administrative arrests during the 2021 fiscal year, down from 104,000 during fiscal 2020 and an average of 148,000 annually from 2017 through 2019.
Biden administration officials said the figure reflects the administration’s efforts to emphasize “quality over quantity” by directing ICE to prioritize immigrants who pose public safety and national security threats.
The report said ICE arrested 12,025 individuals last year with aggravated felony convictions, nearly double the 2020 total. The agency highlighted a targeted operation that arrested 495 “noncitizen sex offenders” from 54 countries, more than twice the number taken into custody in 2020.
The 59,011 deportations reported last year were the lowest total since 1995, according to Department of Homeland Security statistics. ICE, created in 2003, has more than 20,000 employees in its civil, criminal and legal operations and an annual budget of approximately $8 billion.
Biden campaigned for president promising a break with his predecessor’s aggressive enforcement approach and unabashed enthusiasm for mass immigration arrests. After taking office, Biden ordered a “pause” on deportations that upended the agency’s operations and left officers grumbling that their agency had been eliminated by administrative means.
Republicans have hammered the Biden administration over the decline in interior immigration arrests and deportations, and blamed the surge of new arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border on his more lenient policies. U.S. Customs and Border Protection detained 1.7 million border-crossers during the 2021 fiscal year, an all-time high.
Tom Homan, an acting ICE director under Trump, said the Biden administration has curbed immigration enforcement inside the United States at the behest of “radical leftists” who would like to abolish the agency.
“From day one, this administration has pushed policies that have made it effectively impossible to detain or deport around 90% of the illegal aliens currently in the United States, while at the same time releasing tens of thousands of illegal aliens into the country in the past year,” said Homan, now a visiting fellow at The Heritage Foundation, in a statement.
Advocates for immigrants said they welcomed many of the Biden administration’s early changes, such as ending the travel ban and increasing the number of refugees allowed into the United States. But they said the most recent spending bill increases funding for immigration enforcement and complained that Biden has not kept his campaign promise to end privately run detention, which accounts for the majority of the ICE system.
“We really want to see some shifts,” said Silky Shah, executive director of the Detention Watch Network. U.S. officials “don’t need to put people seeking asylum in detention, period,” she added.
Shah said the government should stop detaining people for civil immigration violations, especially those who have already served their time for criminal offenses. “We don’t believe anybody should be detained,” she said. “What we need to do is reduce the system.”
Source: The Day Read the full article here https://www.theday.com/nationworld-news/20220312/report-sharp-drop-in-deportations-immigration-arrests-under-biden