Arrests of U.S. immigration officials have plummeted over the past year as the Biden administration shifted its focus to people without legal status in the country who have committed serious crimes.
WASHINGTON — U.S. immigration arrests have fallen sharply over the past year as the Biden administration shifted its enforcement priorities to focus on people without legal status who have committed serious crimes in the country, officials said on Friday.
In releasing its annual report, reflecting eight months under President Joe Biden, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the total number of immigrant arrests had dropped nearly 40% from the previous year, while the number of people apprehended who had committed “aggravated felonies” had nearly doubled.
Officials describe the strategy as an effective use of limited law enforcement resources, but it puts the administration in a stalemate between mostly right-wing critics who want to see more apprehensions and progressive Democrats who have called for a drastic reduction in the ICE mission. or even eliminate it completely.
“As the data in the annual report reflects, ICE officers and special agents have focused on cases that have had the greatest impact on law enforcement in communities across the country while respecting our values as a nation,” acting director Tae Johnson said in a statement announcing the results.
In what it called a “rebalanced” approach, ICE said its Office of Law Enforcement and Removal Operations arrested 74,082 non-citizens, a combination of people referred to the agency by Customs and the protection of borders and persons detained “at liberty” in the country.
ICE said nearly half of arrests and deportations since Biden took office have been of “serious criminals,” which the administration defines as those convicted of both felonies or “felonies aggravated”, without providing a more detailed breakdown.
In addition to who it targets, ICE has also changed where it operates. Last year, the administration ordered the agency to limit enforcement actions in schools, hospitals and a range of other sensitive places.
The agency says in its statement that “the impact on public safety has been dramatic”, with the number of monthly arrests of aggravated felons up 53% over the past year under President Barack Obama and 51 % on average under the Trump administration.
Among the arrests, some were carried out as part of an initiative targeting sex offenders, resulting in the arrest of 495 people, up from 194 the previous year, ICE said.
Trump, whose administration has taken hundreds of steps to restrict legal and illegal immigration, ordered ICE to apprehend anyone found illegally in the country. In June 2019, he tweeted that “next week ICE will begin the process of deporting the millions of illegal aliens who have entered the United States illegally.”
That didn’t happen, however. The total number of deportations was higher under Obama’s first term than under Trump, in part because many cities and states opposed to his administration’s approach to immigration refused to cooperate with the government. ‘ICE on evictions.