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Immigration arrests and deportations drop under President Biden with shift in priorities
Immigration and customs enforcement under the Biden administration has sought to focus primarily on immigrants who pose a threat to national security, border security, and public safety. The change was prompted by an executive order signed by Biden shortly after taking office.
The Wall Street Journal first reported on the drop in arrests and deportations.

In March, the ICE arrested 2,214 undocumented immigrants, up from 6,679 in December, Trump’s last full month in office.

Earlier this year, the agency put in place custom enforcement guidelines to revert to Obama-era measures based on a priority system instead of the more aggressive approach taken under the Trump administration. The guide attempts to “focus resources on the most pressing national security and public safety and border security challenges we face,” a senior ICE official told CNN on Tuesday.

The guidelines seemed intended to restrict an emboldened agency under the last administration, setting strict parameters for ICE agents, especially in the event that an undocumented immigrant is encountered who is not targeted.

“If everyone’s priority, then no one is a priority, so we have to make choices about where our resources are going,” said the head of the ICE, stressing the limits of these resources.

The ICE official said the changes boiled down to “far more arrests of serious criminals than grannies” and other so-called collateral arrests – of immigrants encountered by authorities who are not targets of the arrest.

The Trump administration made headlines for ICE operations that targeted families and a large-scale immigration raid. Now, under Biden, ICE field offices have been tasked with coordinating their operations and securing pre-approval for enforcement and suppression actions that do not meet the criteria for priority cases.

ICE Acting Director Tae Johnson when rolling out the new guidelines earlier this year said it would help “better coordinate our efforts, ensure consistency in our operations, and inform the development of the new guidelines. application of the secretary “.

The policy change has met with mixed reviews from staff, the ICE official said.

“There are of course some officers who do not like this approach as much as others. And others very much appreciate the change and are implementing it with enthusiasm,” said the head of the ICE.

Succeeding with the new approach, said the head of ICE, will bring top-down communication to the field, repetition and a change in tone and message – what the agency is working on “every day”.

Evictions also fell under the Biden administration. Last month, the agency deported 2,886 people, up from 5,838 in December and 10,353 last October.

There are also fewer immigrants in ICE custody, which the ICE official attributed to the Covid-19 restrictions. In March, the average daily population held by ICE for the current fiscal year was 15,914 people. In fiscal year 2020, the average daily population was 33,724 and 50,165 in 2019.

On inauguration day, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would suspend evictions for 100 days, with a few exceptions, but a Texas federal judge blocked the moratorium, dealing a heavy blow to one of the Biden’s first immigration actions.

The administration argued that the break would give DHS time to review the agency’s policies. Meanwhile, the agency’s law enforcement priorities remained in place, and arrests and deportations slowed significantly.

The ICE official said on Tuesday that there was a “lack of focus” at ICE under the Trump administration, adding that there are downsides to public safety when law enforcement does not do not have a clear direction and allocation of resources.

“What we’re trying to accomplish is focus ICE resources on things that are truly threats to public safety, threats to national security, and that help to strengthen, help establish security. strong border, ”the ICE official said.

DHS is expected to issue department-wide guidelines on application and referrals later this year. As part of this process, ICE is working with its field officers and state and local partners to assess the current interim guidance, the ICE official said.

CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez and Maria Santana contributed to this report.

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