Deportations of illegal immigrants, including those convicted of serious crimes such as burglary and homicide, dropped to the lowest levels in decades during President Joe Biden's first six months in office, according to new data from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
In total, deportations of illegal immigrants from Jan. 21, 2021, through July 9, 2021, dropped by 90 percent compared with the same time period in 2019, the last year before the COVID-19 pandemic, which ground attempted migration into the United States to a near halt.
The curb in deportations extended to all types of illegal immigrants living in the United States, including those with criminal convictions. Deportations of illegal immigrants with convictions for crimes such as aggravated assault, kidnapping, sexual assault, and homicide fell by double-digit percentages in the first six months of 2021 when compared with the previous two years. The number of illegal immigrants with serious criminal convictions deported declined by more than 50 percent from 2020 and 65 percent from 2019.
The data, obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request from the Center for Immigration Studies, provide a picture of the dramatic change in immigration policy and priorities from the White House. The drop in deportations is due to a mix of factors, according to the report's author. Biden promised to pause removals for his first 100 days in office, and new bureaucratic procedures from political appointees have made it nearly impossible for ICE agents to carry out their mission. Jessica Vaughan, who wrote the report and is the director of policy studies at the center, said the Biden administration has paralyzed immigration enforcement at a time when border crossings have reached unprecedented levels.
"This collapse in deportations is undeniably due to the policies President Biden put in place upon taking office, including a deportation moratorium (later blocked in federal court) and by severely restricting the types of cases ICE officers can pursue," Vaughan told the Washington Free Beacon. "Officers are allowed to take action against only the most egregious illegal alien lawbreakers, and even then they have to complete voluminous paperwork for what would normally be routine deportation cases."
Earlier this year, ICE acting director Tae Johnson said the agency would focus on deporting illegal immigrants who present "threats to national security, border security, and our public safety." The announcement came as part of a new federal directive to reevaluate how ICE uses its resources.
Although illegal immigrants with serious criminal convictions did make up a larger number of total deportations—32 percent in the first half of 2021 versus 14 percent in 2020 and 9 percent in 2019—the total number of deportations dropped significantly. During the first six months of 2021, ICE removed just 6,000 illegal immigrants with serious criminal backgrounds, about a third as many as the Trump administration removed during the same time period in 2019.
The deportation numbers provided to the Center for Immigration Studies do not make a distinction between interior and border removals, meaning some of the decline in ICE's activity could be attributed to the Biden administration's use of Title 42, a public health measure that has allowed immigration authorities during the coronavirus pandemic to turn away migrants as soon as they enter the country. The center maintains that the severe drop in deportations from ICE field offices—in San Antonio, for example, deportations dropped from 44,523 in 2019 to 2,386 in 2021—are evidence of the Biden administration weakening immigration enforcement. Some ICE field offices were virtually inactive during the first six months of Biden's term, with the Baltimore field office removing just 32 illegal immigrants during that time.
"In addition to requiring what is essentially pointless busywork to seek an extra layer of approval for each arrest, agency leadership has also reduced interior enforcement by downsizing the number of working officers," the CIS report reads. "This has been accomplished in many ways, including sending officers to work at the border and even by paying officers not to work."
The 2021 fiscal year saw 1.7 million migrant arrests on the southern border, more than any other year on record. In fiscal years 2013 through 2019, border arrests averaged around 540,000 annually.