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House Republicans demand answers over low ICE arrest numbers

House Republicans sent a letter to ICE demanding to know why the agency has reported “decreasing interior arrests and removals from the United States” despite not having lost any funding

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement | Shutterstock

January 12, 2022 7:44pm

Updated: January 12, 2022 7:44pm

Republican members of the House Oversight Committee are probing the “historically low” rate of arrests of undocumented migrants by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and claiming that the Biden administration is stopping the agency from doing its job through the use of policy memos.

Rep. James Comer, the GOP’s ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, and Rep. Michael Cloud, the top Republican on the economic and consumer policy subcommittee, sent a letter to ICE on Tuesday demanding to know why the agency has reported “decreasing interior arrests and removals from the United States” despite not having lost any funding.

In the letter, the Republican lawmakers blasted policies implemented by the Biden administration as the reason that immigration laws were no longer being enforced – except in the most serious criminal cases, national security threats or recent border crossers, The Washington Times reported.

“As radical, left-wing activists recklessly call to abolish ICE, it appears the Biden Administration is abolishing its mission by memorandum,” the letter read.

In September of last year, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued a memo stating that being in the U.S. without documentation is no longer sufficient cause for arrest or deportation and providing new guidelines for agents and officers.

In the memo, Mayorkas wrote, “Enforcement priorities for apprehension and removal remain focused on noncitizens who are a threat to our national security, public safety, and border security.” He added that the new guidelines “require an assessment of the individual and the totality of the facts and circumstances to ensure resources are focused most effectively on those who pose a threat.”

A second memo released in October limited where agents and officers could make arrests – instructing them to avoid taking action around schools, day cares centers, bus stops, clinics, parks, churches, social services offices or anywhere undocumented migrants might go to “seek assistance.”

Although critics have questioned why Mayorkas has limited ICE’s ability to enforce the law, the Biden administration defended Mayorkas’ policies saying, due to limited resources, ICE must be judicious in those it chooses to pursue.

“They are guided by the fact that the majority of undocumented noncitizens who could be subject to removal have been contributing members of U.S. communities for years,” wrote Alice Lugo, Mr. Mayorkas’s congressional liaison. “The fact that a noncitizen is a removable citizen should not alone be the basis of an enforcement action against them.”