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ICE arrests plummet under new Biden rules, but they claim it shows their plan is working

Critics point to other data that shows how it isn’t working

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) | D By danielfela

November 26, 2021 11:38pm

Updated: November 29, 2021 6:08pm

The number of arrests of undocumented migrants coming into the U.S. has dropped precipitously since the Biden administration announced new rules in February limiting which of them could be targeted for arrest. 

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorized nearly 21,000 arrests in the period from February to September, which is an average of one arrest every two months for each deportation officer, according to The Washington Times

That is down significantly from the Trump years when ICE averaged two arrests each month per officer, and from the Obama years when it was four arrests each month.

But ICE argues that while it’s catching fewer people overall, it’s arresting more aggravated felons, which it claims is proof that the new rules, which are intended to focus on the most valuable targets, are working as planned.

They point to having arrested 6,046 aggravated felons since the new rules were issued in February compared to 3,575 during the same period in 2020, when the pandemic was in full force. 

These numbers were revealed as part of a court filing which sought to defend the new priority guidelines they have instituted. 

“Under the rules, only immigrants without documentation who are considered national security threats, recent border crossers or aggravated felons are automatic arrest and deportation priorities,” according to the outlet.

While ICE currently has approximately 6,000 deportation officers, not all of them are assigned to duties that include making regular arrests. From Feb. 18 to Sept. 16, ICE says it “authorized 57 automatic national security arrests, 3,696 border cases, 9,918 felony or public safety cases. And higher-ups also approved 7,157 requests outside the automatic priorities.”

But Biden administration critics argue that that does not tell the whole story. “These numbers are shockingly low,” said Jessica Vaughan, policy studies director at the Center for Immigration Studies. “They have accomplished their goal of abolishing immigration enforcement by memo.”

In addition, Vaughan cites a new report coming out that will show that with deportations averaging a little over 3,000 a month for the six months following Biden’s inauguration, that represents a huge decline compared to both the Trump and Obama administrations. She says it is an 85 percent decline compared to 2019. 

“ICE declined to comment on the low arrest numbers, citing the ongoing legal challenges to the enforcement guidance,” according to the Times.