Biden Withholds Annual Report on Deportations

ICE fails to produce annual report for first time in more than a decade

January 5, 2022

The Biden administration has yet to release a report that details the number of illegal immigrants removed from the United States in 2021, keeping the public in the dark about its handling of the immigration crisis.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not release its annual report in 2021, a departure from standard agency practice since at least 2011. In each of the last nine years, ICE released the report in the final weeks of the calendar year, most recently on Dec. 23, 2020 during the Trump administration. 

It is unclear whether ICE has completed the report, which provides a lengthy summary of the agency’s enforcement and removal operations, as well as immigration-related security threats. A spokeswoman for the immigration agency told the Washington Free Beacon a release date for the report has not been determined. 

The absence of the 2021 annual report has prompted outrage on Capitol Hill. Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) questioned the motives behind the White House's secrecy on the topic of immigration.

"During record-breaking levels of illegal immigration, DHS and ICE have taken steps to dismantle interior enforcement operations that keep our communities safe from criminal aliens," Hawley told the Free Beacon. "I’ve been calling for transparency into these radical policy changes for months. If ICE is intentionally hiding their annual report from the public, then it’s safe to assume it doesn’t show any improvement; it shows failure."

The administration's decision not to release the ICE report marks the latest example of Biden's failure to live up to transparency standards set by both its Democratic and Republican predecessors. The Free Beacon in November reported that the White House violated a congressional statute with its failure to release its report on the number of illegal immigrants in the United States. The 2021 fiscal year saw more recorded illegal border crossings than any time in U.S. history.

This latest evasion comes as just 35 percent of voters approve of Biden's handling of immigration, according to a RealClearPolitics average of recent polls. Critics of the president's immigration policy accused Biden of hiding statistics as a way to avoid bad press.

"It's absolutely shocking that the release of the ICE report hasn't happened," former ICE chief of staff Jon Feere told the Free Beacon. "I assumed, at worst, they'd put it out on New Year’s Eve when nobody is paying attention, but even that didn’t happen."

"I can't imagine the outcry if we had not produced this report under the Trump administration," Feere said. 

Much of the information provided in the agency’s annual report goes beyond deportation statistics. The 2020 report, for example, summarized results from operations related to stopping COVID-19 relief fund abuse. In fiscal year 2020, ICE and its law enforcement partners seized more than $18 million linked to pandemic-related fraud and criminal activity. 

An individual familiar with the production of the report in past years, who asked not to be directly quoted, speculated that White House dysfunction may be responsible for the delay. The individual said more left-wing members of the Biden administration, such as Domestic Policy Council deputy director for immigration Esther Olavarria, may have disagreed with more "moderate" staff, such as domestic policy adviser Susan Rice, on a strategy for releasing a report that could be seen as unfavorable to Biden.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Republican lawmakers have increasingly voiced outrage over what they call a culture of secrecy from the White House. Hawley and Sen. James Lankford (R., Okla.) wrote a letter to Department of Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas last month demanding the agency release the 2020 Entry/Exit Overstay Report, which lists the number of foreign nationals in the country who overstayed their visas.

Despite plummeting approval ratings from voters, Democrats remain committed to the most liberal border policy in generations. In October, Senate Democrats proposed an appropriations bill that would slash funding for Customs and Border Protection by half a billion dollars. ICE would have $40 million cut from its previous annual budget.