ICE deportations continue to decline this year and are on pace to be the lowest since 2006, according to the latest ICE statistics. Deportations of criminals also keep declining, despite a nationwide litany of high-profile fatalities caused by criminal aliens, and despite the Obama administration’s claimed focus on removing deportable criminals. ICE internal metrics, including arrests, detainers and charging documents issued, show that enforcement in the interior has reached the lowest level of this administration. Most of ICE’s workload (72%) is still made up of cases referred from the Border Patrol rather than aliens arrested in the interior of the country, a trend that started in 2012. The number of aliens being detained is running slightly higher than it was at this time last year, but still well below the level mandated by Congress.
Deportations Keep Dropping
The most recent ICE enforcement statistics were disclosed in a document released by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.1 These figures are current through the third week of June, and thus cover approximately 75 percent of the federal fiscal year.
To date, ICE has completed 168,781 deportations, a slight decline from the same point in 2015, but a continuation of the steep decline that has occurred since 2012, when the administration took steps to suppress interior enforcement and exempt the vast majority of illegal aliens from deportation.
ICE is on pace to complete about 230,000 deportations, which would be the lowest number since 2006.
According to the ICE report, the sharpest declines in deportations have occurred in the Chicago, New Orleans, Detroit, and Atlanta field offices (see p. 17 of the report).
Most Deportations are Border Cases
The great majority of deportations (72%) completed by ICE are border crossers who were initially arrested by the Border Patrol or port of entry officers and turned over to ICE for deportation. Most of the rest are aliens who were arrested in the interior, with only a handful of cases (less than 1%) initiated by other agencies.
In previous administrations, border crossers did not make up a large share of deportations credited to ICE. The inclusion of hundreds of thousands of border cases in ICE deportation totals became the basis for deceptive Obama administration claims of “record deportations” beginning in 2012, when in fact, deportations resulting from interior enforcement were dropping sharply. Exposure of this statistical manipulation by the Center led then-incoming DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson to acknowledge that Obama administration deportation statistics are not comparable with those of previous administrations.2
Interior deportations fell to 46,511 to date, according to the report, putting ICE on pace to complete 63,700 this year. This is approximately one-fourth the number of interior deportations completed by ICE in 2009, the first year of the Obama administration.
Criminal Deportations Still Declining
Despite a claimed focus on the deportation of criminal aliens, and a motto of “felons, not families,” ICE is deporting fewer criminals too. To date, ICE has completed 43,005 deportations of criminals from the interior. ICE is on pace to complete about 59,000 deportations of criminal aliens in 2016. This is a decline of more than 60 percent from 2011, which was the peak of criminal deportations that resulted from the implementation of the Secure Communities program. Under Secure Communities, ICE developed the ability to locate criminal aliens by matching the fingerprints of all those arrested nationwide with the DHS databases of known aliens.
ICE Enforcement Activity Still Declining
By every measure, ICE is doing less and less enforcement. According to the agency’s key metrics – Encounters, Arrests, Detainers, and Charging Documents Issued – fewer aliens have been put on the path to deportation in 2016. The agency has simply stopped reporting on the number of encounters (an in-person screening of an alien, usually in a jail). The number of arrests is down 10 percent over the same time last year. The number of detainers (a notice to a law enforcement agency that ICE intends to take custody of an alien for deportation) is down 16 percent from last year. The number of aliens charged with immigration violations is down by about five percent from 2016.
In 2014, the Obama administration aligned itself with anti-enforcement legal activists and, in a significant departure from decades of practice and the language of federal regulations, declared that local law enforcement agencies would have the choice to accept or refuse ICE detainers, or immigration holds. Detainers are the main way ICE is able to take custody of illegal aliens who have been arrested and/or incarcerated. Sanctuary jurisdictions typically refuse to comply with ICE detainers and instead release criminal aliens back to the streets, forcing ICE to have to track them down. In addition, to appease sanctuary jurisdictions, ICE has begun issuing “Requests for Notification” in lieu of traditional detainers (now called “Requests for Action”).
Number of Non-Departed Aliens Still Growing
The number of aliens who have been ordered removed but who have not departed grew by more than 25,000 since the end of FY2015 and now stands at 953,507. For more information, see the Center’s recent publication on the non-departed, which includes a map of the aliens’ countries of citizenship.3
Of these, 182,786 are convicted criminals, an increase of more than 3,700 since last year. Of the criminals, 176,126 are at large, an increase of nearly 4,000 since last year.
ICE Fails To Comply With Detention Bed Mandate
As part of the appropriations process, Congress has mandated that ICE maintain an average daily detained population of 34,000. In the current year to date, ICE has detained an average of 28,449, or 16 percent below capacity. The last time ICE complied with the congressional detention mandate was in 2012. Even though space is available, ICE has released more than 86,000 criminal aliens from its custody since 2013, including more than 19,000 in 2015.4
Detainers Still a Key Tool
Despite the efforts of anti-enforcement legal activist groups to subvert the use of detainers, or immigration holds, they remain the primary way in which ICE obtains custody of criminal aliens who have been arrested or incarcerated. According to the report, ICE issued more than 44,000 of the most assertive form of detainer, known as a “Request for Action.” To help institutionalize the controversial claim that detainers are optional for local jurisdictions to honor, the Obama administration has promoted the use of the meeker “Request for Notification” or “Request for Voluntary Transfer” forms, but these were used in only about one-fourth of the cases to date.
These statistics reveal an alarming deterioration in immigration enforcement. The economic, social, and public safety consequences of this nullification of immigration law will surely be a lamentable legacy of the Obama administration.
The Center for Immigration Studies is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit research organization founded in 1985.
It is the nation's only think tank devoted exclusively to research and policy analysis of the economic, social, demographic,
fiscal, and other impacts of immigration on the United States.