Immigration Enforcement All But Frozen by ICE During Biden’s First Year
Nearly half way through Fiscal Year (FY) 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) finally released Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) data for FY 2021. The numbers confirm that the Biden administration has all but ceased removing illegal aliens from the United States.
Reports within DHS indicate that even Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the chief architect of the Biden immigration policy, was taken aback by how precipitously the number of illegal aliens removed from the United States fell during the administration’s first eight months in office. The bad optics of plummeting removals amid historically high levels of new illegal immigration may explain why the administration chose to release these data while the nation’s attention was focused on Russia’s war on Ukraine and soaring inflation.
Among the disturbing data revealed in DHS’s 2021 ICE Annual Report:
- 59,011 deportable aliens removed. In contrast to nearly 1.8 million people who were encountered entering the U.S. illegally in FY 2021, and an estimated 500,000-600,000 who eluded apprehension, ICE removed barely a thousand per week. The FY 2021 removals are the lowest on record since 1995, and the lowest in the history of ICE, which was created in 2003.
- About half of the FY 2021 removals occurred during the Trump administration. The data indicate that 28,677 removals occurred prior to February 18. That means that during the last eight months of the fiscal year, ICE removed just about 100 illegal aliens per day.
- With at least 15 million illegal aliens in the U.S., ICE initiated only 74,082 arrests. Fewer arrests mean that even fewer illegal aliens will be removed in future years. The FY 2021 figures (the first four months of which were under the Trump administration) are about half the number of such arrests in the pre-COVID years of 2018 and 2019. While the number of new cases declined in FY 2021, ICE closed or dismissed 18,809 existing removal cases.
- The dramatic FY 2021 decline in ICE enforcement occurred before the issuance of new DHS guidelines that further constrain the agency. Beginning on the final day of FY 2021, DHS Secretary Mayorkas issued three new sets of guidelines that further limit the categories of immigration lawbreakers who are subject to enforcement, including many with criminal records, and where ICE can carry out enforcement actions.
President Biden may not have formally abolished ICE, as the far left flank of his party has demanded, but the FY 2021 data demonstrate that his administration has all but abolished its functions as an agency that enforces U.S. immigration laws.
With the implementation of Secretary Mayorkas’ draconian guidelines that further restrict ICE’s ability to arrest and remove illegal aliens, the administration moves ever closer to defiance of a federal court order, issued in January 2021. In a lawsuit brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Federal Judge Drew Tipton ruled that the president did not have the authority to suspend deportations, and agreed with the plaintiffs that states would “suffer imminent and irreparable harm” as a result.
The anemic removal numbers recorded during the president’s first eight months in office, combined with new restrictions on arrests and removals implemented in FY 2022 that will drive those numbers even lower, are creating a de facto moratorium on removals that will need to be addressed by the courts.