Biden’s ICE Non-Enforcement Policies Will Make the Border Crisis Worse

‘For the system to be credible, people actually have to be deported at the end of the process.’

By Andrew R. Arthur on May 27, 2021

A May 25 article in the Washington Post detailed just how severely ICE enforcement has been affected by Biden administration policies. The inane and procrustean limits imposed by the president and his underlings on officers’ ability to detain and deport removable aliens in the interior of the United States described therein will only make the already historically bad border crisis all the worse.

The article is headlined “Biden administration reins in street-level enforcement by ICE as officials try to refocus agency mission”, but the authors (whom I don’t know but greatly respect) know better. ICE enforcement under the Trump administration — despite what you may hear — was a shadow of what it had been under almost all of the Obama administration — and even that wasn’t that great.

In March 2011, then-ICE Director John Morton asserted that ICE only had enough resources to deport 400,000 aliens each year.

Between FY 2017 and FY 2020 — almost all of the Trump administration — ICE removed a total of just 935,346 aliens, 65 percent of whom had criminal arrests or convictions (most of the non-criminals had been arrested at the border). That averages out to fewer than 234,000 aliens a year, or 58 percent of the agency’s capacity.

As the Post explains, however, ICE under Biden is only carrying out fewer than 3,000 removals per month, and thus at best will remove just 36,000 aliens per year.

If you feel like you are paying for more immigration enforcement and getting less, you are: That would be just 9 percent of the removals ICE could perform, and as the Post notes: “The agency’s 6,000 officers currently average one arrest every two months.”

Compare that factoid to another, also highlighted by the Post: “ICE has a deportation caseload is [sic] more than 3.2 million — which includes people facing deportation and those with final orders to leave the United States.”

I would say you can just do the math and conclude that the Biden administration is deliberately wasting your money because it does not like immigration enforcement, period. That said, a more enlightening statistic shows that the problem is even worse than the Post lets on.

As of the end of FY 2019, according to the ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) branch, there were 595,430 immigration fugitives — that is, aliens who have “failed to leave the United States based upon a final order of removal, deportation or exclusion” and those who failed to report to ICE after being told to do so.

Those are aliens who either received due process after going through the immigration court system or who are deliberately avoiding their day in court entirely. ICE has not released more recent numbers, but given the reduction in immigration enforcement due to the pandemic in FY 2020, there are certainly more than 600,000 ICE fugitives (which is larger than the population of Wyoming).

If agents are removing 3,000 aliens per month, and there are 600,000 fugitives, it would take 16 years to remove them all, assuming that no new aliens fail to depart as ordered between now and 2037.

Even that is an inapt analogy, because the Biden administration and the vast majority of those interviewed for the Post article believe that ICE should be shooting for quality of removals instead of quantity; that is, preferring the most serious criminals over those aliens who have “just” entered the United States illegally or overstayed nonimmigrant visas, received due process, and failed to depart.

At first blush, one could conclude that there is some logic to this plan. But only at first blush.

That’s because if ordinary, otherwise law-abiding illegal aliens are not deported after they are ordered removed, the entire immigration system breaks down. Illegal actions have to have some consequences, or they are no longer illegal and everyone will commit them.

Consider state troopers on the interstate. Most drivers I know exceed the speed limit as a general matter, but they slow down when they see a squad car because they don’t want to get caught.

Now assume that the local governor says that arresting speeders is not a priority for the state police unless the driver just got a license, is a threat to national security, is a known gang member, or has committed an “aggravated felony” (crimes like rape, robbery, and murder).

Even then, those scofflaws who are criminals and gang members would not be targeted for a ticket if the driver has a medical condition, has a family, or coaches little league.

In that situation, not everyone would speed all the time, but a lot more drivers will. Some motorists will be going 55 while others are exceeding 100, regardless of weather conditions. That’s how people die, both speeders and the more cautious drivers (and passengers, too).

That is exactly what the Biden administration’s February 18 ICE interim guidance does. ICE ERO officers are the troopers on the interstate, and they can only pull over drivers if they know that the removable alien is a national security risk, gang member, entered after the wholly arbitrary date of November 1, 2020, or has been convicted of an aggravated felony.

And, even then, ICE officers can only go after those rapists, robbers, murderers, and gang members if the officers take into account their family situation, medical conditions, community ties, and “evidence of rehabilitation”. Read it yourself on pages four to five of that February interim guidance. It sounds so stupid you may think I’m making it up.

I’m not. But you don’t have to trust me and my state trooper analogy.

Here is how civil rights activist, former Democratic congresswoman, and then-Chairwoman of President Bill Clinton’s Commission on Immigration Reform, Barbara Jordan, explained it in February 1995:

Credibility in immigration policy can be summed up in one sentence: those who should get in, get in; those who should be kept out, are kept out; and those who should not be here will be required to leave. The top priorities for detention and removal, of course, are criminal aliens. But for the system to be credible, people actually have to be deported at the end of the process. [Emphasis added.]

Why, exactly, did more than 40,000 people enter the United States illegally and evade Border Patrol apprehension in April (as Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) explained they did at a May 13 hearing)? Because they know that once they make it over the border and get into the United States, no one from ICE is ever going to come looking for them.

And Border Patrol has its hands full with the more than 178,000 illegal migrants it did catch in the United States in April — they barely have the time, let alone the ability, to chase after the rest.

For that matter, why are seizures of fentanyl and convicted criminal aliens at the border up this fiscal year? Because cartels, smugglers, and those criminals know that Border Patrol doesn’t have the resources to do its job, with the monthly migrant surge in April at a 21-year high.

If you’re an alien who was deported after being convicted of homicide and want to return, or you want to make money bringing in deadly drugs to sell to Americans, now is the time to do it.

The time is ripe for smugglers and criminals to treat the border like a doormat in large part because so many “ordinary, otherwise law-abiding illegal aliens” are doing it, too. And that’s because ICE isn’t allowed to do its job in removing aliens once they are here. Barbara Jordan told you this would happen.