Deportations by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) fell in 2021 to the lowest level ever recorded, according to a Friday report by the agency.
The Biden administration has taken steps to curtail ICE operations while at the same time struggling to contain an explosion in border crossings on the U.S. southern border. ICE said in a release that the new data reflect the agency’s focus “on threats to national security, public safety, and border security.”
“In Fiscal Year 2021, ICE officers and special agents effectively carried out their national security, public safety, and border security mission despite having to work through the devastating COVID-19 pandemic,” ICE Acting Director Tae Johnson said in a statement. “As the annual report’s data reflects, ICE’s officers and special agents focused on cases that delivered the greatest law enforcement impact in communities across the country while upholding our values as a nation.”
The report shows that ICE recorded 59,011 deportations in fiscal year 2021. That total is down by well over 120,000 from 185,884 in fiscal year 2020. The decrease is in part to enforcement changes made due to COVID-19, and due in part to a scaling back of ICE priorities. According to The Washington Post:
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.
The U.S. border is reportedly projected to be flooded in another record-breaking border crossings this Spring. The Biden administration is bracing for a wave of migrants that could result in border officials making up to 9,000 arrests per day. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection struggled to handle border crossers last year, making a record-breaking 1.7 million arrests. At the height of the migration, daily arrests rose up to 6,500 a day.
Former acting CBP commissioner Mark Morgan released a statement in January slamming President Joe Biden over the ongoing border crisis. Morgan said:
More than a year ago, even as Joe Biden was preparing to roll back President Donald Trump’s effective border security policies, he claimed he did not want to end up with ‘two million people on our border.’ After a year on the job, it’s undeniable that Biden has failed even by his own basic measure.
In 12 months, CBP recorded more than two million encounters along the southwest border, a shocking and historic number. But that number does not include an estimated 600,000 or more ‘got-aways,’ individuals who cross the border illegally but which Border Patrol is unable to detain. And then there are the ‘turn-backs,’ those who make an effort to cross the border but eventually give up and return to their country of origin. Under Biden, that number was around 400,000. Under Joe Biden, more than three million people have tried to violate America’s sovereignty and illegally enter our country. This is not only the worst border crisis in American history—it’s the worst 12 months for any president when it comes to border security.
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