ICE Monthly Removals Fall to Lowest Level Ever in April

Fewer than 3,000 removed last month; you won’t see many pictures, but you’ll see the effects

By Andrew R. Arthur on May 7, 2021

ICE removed 2,962 aliens last month — the first time that the agency’s removals ever fell below 3,000, and a 20 percent decline over the month before, when there were 3,716 removals. What all this tells you is that immigration enforcement — and therefore immigration law — doesn’t exist anymore.

Although this may come as a shock, it really shouldn’t be a surprise. I explained in a February post that, as a result of new enforcement “priorities” (read: “restrictions”) imposed by the current administration, “Biden's DHS Is Abolishing ICE Without Abolishing ICE”, with “officers ‘now being told to enforce nothing’”.

More specifically, as my colleague Jessica Vaughan made clear in a post on January 22, Biden’s ICE constraints mean that “aliens convicted of domestic violence, sex offenses, drunk driving, theft causing loss of less than $10,000, vehicular homicide, an infinite number of misdemeanor crimes, and much more” will not only not get arrested by ICE, but that if they are arrested, the agency will release them.

As bad as the situation at the border is, interior non-enforcement is, if anything, worse. But you don’t see children crowded into makeshift detention centers under foil blankets when ICE isn’t allowed to deport criminals. The current non-enforcement rules are the reason aliens are coming, though, because they send the signal that once those aliens get into the United States, they will get to stay.

Or, as former Acting ICE Director Ron Vitiello told the Post: “The odds of being arrested just for being in the country illegally were always extremely low, and now they’ve basically ruled it out by policy.”

The Biden administration’s restrictions on ICE are based on a false narrative that under Trump, the agency’s enforcement efforts were somehow harsh, unusual, and cruel.

For example, on his campaign website, Biden described it as a “moral failing and a national shame when” the Trump administration “threaten[ed] massive raids that would break up families who have been in this country for years and targets people at sensitive locations like hospitals and schools”.

The Post article made a similar (but nowhere near as bombastic) point, stating that “ICE officers ... were afforded wide latitude under the Trump administration to make arrests and were encouraged to boost deportations.”

Sounds tough. As I explained in January, however, ICE enforcement under Trump was actually less harsh than during all but the last two years of the Obama administration, based on the two key metrics for ICE enforcement (ICE interior arrests and removals).

You don’t have to take my word for it: In March 2020, the Pew Research Center reported that while “ICE arrests went up after Trump took office”, they remained “lower than during much of Obama’s tenure”.

Similarly, Pew explained that while removals increased 17 percent between FY 2017 and FY 2018, they remained “below recent highs” — and in particular under the Obama administration. Note that even then, Pew considered both interior removals by ICE and border removals by CBP. ICE has to actively locate aliens to deport, while CBP’s deportations come to it.

And Pew did not have numbers for ICE’s anemic performance in FY 2020, when (due in part to the pandemic), only 62,739 of ICE’s almost 186,000 removals were aliens whom ICE had arrested in the interior.

Don’t expect the numbers of removals to increase anytime soon. The Post reports that under Biden, the agency’s officers have made roughly 2,500 arrests per month, “down from about 6,000 during the final months of Trump’s presidency and an average of over 10,000 per month before the pandemic”.

You likely won’t hear many national media outlets talk about the consequences of Biden’s restrictions on ICE enforcement — including new crimes by criminal aliens who would have otherwise been removed, wage effects on American workers (both citizens and lawfully admitted aliens), and increased social costs — the way that they have portrayed the crisis at the border.

You almost definitely will, though, read in local papers about the new crimes that those removable (but thanks to Biden, unremoved) domestic abusers, sex offenders, and drunk drivers go on to commit. And you’ll see the effects of non-enforcement in your child’s school, the nearby emergency room, and in the unemployment numbers.