U.S. immigrant arrests plunge under Biden administration, data shows

Under Biden, the Department of Homeland Security implemented a series of policy changes that marked a break from the Trump administration’s aggressive enforcement actions. This included changing guidelines to focus arrests on risks to national security, public safety and border security.
ICE enforcement and suppression operations made more than 74,000 administrative arrests — for immigration violations — in fiscal year 2021, according to agency data, down from last year. Trump administration when annual administrative arrests exceeded 100,000. ICE, under the previous administration, had given officers more leeway to make arrests.

On Friday, senior ICE officials highlighted the impact of the pandemic on operations, noting the difficulty of comparing data to previous years.

“I can’t stress enough the impact of Covid on the agency on this, really over the past year and a half, but definitely this fiscal year,” a senior official said, noting the closures and other countries. who refused to accept the deportation cases.

Data for fiscal year 2021 encompasses the final months of the Trump administration and the start of the Biden era.

Of the total number of arrests made, 45,755 took place after ICE changed its guidelines last February under Biden, according to newly released data. Nearly half of those arrests were of convicted felons, while 55% of those arrested were classified as “threats to border security,” which includes those apprehended by the US Border Patrol.

The return to a priority system for arrests was among several policy changes instituted under Biden. Over the past year, ICE also terminated contracts with two detention centers, ended long-term detention of families, halted mass immigration raids on construction sites, and began to orient to alternatives to detention, such as anklets.

A senior ICE official told reporters on Friday that “the targeted approach has yielded measurable success,” including, for example, a doubling of aggravated felony arrests from the previous year.

Deportations also dropped dramatically in the first year of the Biden administration. ICE deported about 59,000 last year, up from 185,884 the previous year.

Acting ICE Director Tae Johnson, who remained at the helm of the agency during the months-long confirmation process of Biden’s choice to lead ICE, Ed Gonzalez, is overseeing the structural changes.

This week, Gonzalez’s confirmation hit a snag after Senate Democrats withdrew a vote to advance his nomination when an alleged national complaint surfaced. The White House said it still supported Gonzalez, who called the charges in the complaint false.

While immigrant advocates and Democratic lawmakers welcomed the change at ICE, they criticized the continued use of private detention and access to Covid-19 vaccines for those detained.

Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union also filed a nationwide class action lawsuit against ICE, claiming the federal agency failed to provide Covid-19 booster shots to medically vulnerable inmates.


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