WASHINGTON – Arrests of immigrants inside the United States fell in fiscal 2021 to the lowest level in more than a decade – about half of the annual totals recorded under the Trump administration, according to the US immigration and customs data obtained by the Washington Post.
Officers working for ICE’s Enforcement and Suppression (ERO) operations made approximately 72,000 administrative arrests in the fiscal year that ended in September, up from 104,000 in the fiscal year. 2020 and an average of 148,000 per year from 2017 to 2019.
The data on administrative arrests of the ERO is considered one of the best indicators of the activity of the ICE, as law enforcement inside is entirely under the control of the agency, unlike deportations and other measures that increase and decrease with migratory trends at the Mexican border.
ICE arrests inside plunged after President Joe Biden took office and set new limits on immigration enforcement, including a 100-day “hiatus” on most evictions. A federal judge quickly blocked this order. But while ICE arrests have increased in recent months, enforcement levels of Biden’s new priority system remain lower than in previous years.
In the fiscal year ending September 30, the 6,000 RIO law enforcement officers each made an average of about 12 immigrant arrests per year, or one per month. The peak of ICE enforcement activity over the past decade has been fiscal 2011, when ICE made 322,093 administrative arrests, roughly 4.5 times the 2021 total, according to historical data.
Asked for comment on the data, ICE spokeswoman Paige Hughes said the agency “is in the process of finalizing our year-end tax numbers, and those numbers will be shared publicly once the review is complete. Completed Data integrity is of the utmost importance to the agency, and ICE’s audited statistics strongly demonstrate the effectiveness of our current approach of prioritizing national security, border security and public safety.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued new general guidelines to ICE at the end of September, telling officers that the fact that a person is illegally present in the United States “should not alone be the basis »Of a detention and expulsion decision. The new guidelines come into effect on November 29.
But months ago, the agency strayed from the priorities of the Trump administration, with ICE officials saying agents are focused on arresting more serious criminals.
Under President Donald Trump, ICE officers had wide latitude to enforce immigration laws and make arrests, and many of those classified as “criminal” suspects were non-violent offenders. or had been convicted of immigration violations such as illegal return to the country.
According to agency data, around 90% of those arrested by ICE agents in FY2020 were convicted felons or had pending criminal charges. That share fell to 65% in fiscal year 2021. The remaining third were “immigration offenders,” according to the data.
ECI officials have offered other data that they believe reflects their new approach. Between Feb. 18 and Aug. 31, ICE arrested 6,046 people convicted of aggravated felony, up from 3,575 during the same period in 2020, officials said.
They also highlighted the arrest of 363 sex offenders in a targeted operation this summer, up from 194 during this period the previous year. Almost 80% of these offenses involved child victims, the ICE said.
Mayorkas’ new ICE guidelines call on officers to continue to prioritize immigrants who pose a threat to national security and public safety, as well as recent franchisees who have entered the United States illegally.
“Are we going to spend the time apprehending and pulling out the farm worker who breaks his back to pick fruit that we all put on our tables?” Mayorkas told the Post in an interview in September. “Because if we go after that individual, we won’t be spending those same resources on someone who is, in fact, threatening our security.” And that’s what it is. “
Mayorkas gave ICE officers more leeway in determining whether to arrest someone, relaxing interim guidelines released in February that required senior supervisors to approve enforcement decisions at the street level.
Jessica Vaughan, director of political studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, which promotes immigration reduction, accused the ICE of a “collapse of law enforcement inside”, even as the agency continues to receive billions of dollars for detention and deportations.
“It’s a public safety issue that we don’t need to have,” she said, adding that an officer told her that “the hardest part of my job now is doing pretending to look busy “.
Illegal border crossings have skyrocketed since Biden took office, and the 1.7 million migrants apprehended by the border patrol in fiscal 2021 have been a record. Critics of the Biden administration say lax domestic enforcement prompted the illegal entries.
The ICE curtailed some law enforcement activities in 2020 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus inside immigration prisons. In the months that followed, the prison population fell to its lowest level in more than a decade. The current detained population is around 22,000, according to the agency’s most recent statistics, well below the peak of over 56,000 under the Trump administration.
The Biden administration is also facing a backlash from immigrant advocacy groups. They are angry with the mass deportation of Haitian migrants last month from a makeshift camp in Del Rio, Texas, as well as plans to revive the Trump-era “Stay in Mexico” policy in November. , ordered by a federal court.
Campaigners protested by arranging a virtual “exit” from a meeting with Biden’s top immigration advisers this month, with many saying his approach to enforcement is no different from that of his predecessor.
And while immigrant advocates say they are encouraged by the change in enforcement inside, they are unsure how the Department of Homeland Security will monitor ICE’s compliance with the priorities taking effect next month.
Maru Mora Villalpando, a 50-year-old Mexican national living in Washington state, said the new policies marked “a major victory” for grassroots immigration organizations fighting to limit arrests.
She said the Trump administration had targeted her for deportation after going public with the protests of detainees in her state, despite having no criminal record and her daughter is a U.S. citizen. She said she was over her visa and has been living here since 1996.
The Biden administration, on the other hand, used its prosecutorial discretion to quash her case this year, paving the way for her daughter to sponsor her for legal residency, she said. A few days ago, she says, her green card arrived.
DHS also said this month the agency would end massive round-ups on construction sites and more aggressively target unscrupulous employers who exploit unauthorized immigrants.
“This work that we have done for so many years is bearing fruit today,” said Mora Villalpando, who still organizes inmate aid in Washington state, which recently passed a law to phase out prisoners. private detention centers.
“I’m one of the lucky ones,” she said. She plans to return to Mexico soon to visit siblings she hasn’t seen for 25 years; his parents are already dead.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” she said of getting her green card, but added: “It doesn’t stop with the fact that I have a green card. … The job will be done when ICE no longer exists.
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