Concrete Evidence of the Continuing Plunge in Both Civil and Criminal Immigration Enforcement

By Dan Cadman on January 23, 2016

Two recent reports from Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) reflect the continued erosion of immigration enforcement under the Obama administration.

On January 20, TRAC reported that criminal prosecution for immigration offenses fell 22.3 percent from November 2014 to November 2015, and more than 36 percent over the course of five years, excluding magistrate court (which deals exclusively with petty offenses).

The following day, TRAC announced that "ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] Detainer Use Stabilizes Under Priority Enforcement Program". The Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) is the replacement to the Secure Communities Program mandated by Homeland Security Security Jeh Johnson as a part of the president's "executive actions" on immigration. It significantly restricts the ability of immigration agents to file detainers against aliens arrested by police on criminal charges.

I have no idea what TRAC means by "stabilizes". A quick look at Figure 1a of their report shows a more accurate state of affairs, if one considers the number of detainers being filed over the course of five years, from a high in April 2011, when Secure Communities became fully effective nationwide and kicked into high gear, versus October 2015. I would use other phrases: "plummeted" or "Dropped like a stone". Or, as my colleague Jessica Vaughan has noted, particularly in relation to detainers filed at county jails, where the lion's share of criminals of any stripes are held after being booked for offenses small and large: "a stunning free fall".

In the confluence of these reports, we see concrete evidence of several things:

  • The abject failure of this administration to grapple with sanctuary jurisdictions, even while continuing to ply them with federal monies under the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program;

  • The ineffectual nature of PEP, which has been rejected by many sheriff's offices out of hand, despite a considerable amount of time and effort by Homeland Security authorities, including the secretary himself, to use their powers of suasion to convince law enforcement that PEP is the best thing since sliced bread;

  • An apparent newfound unwillingness, quite probably as the result of directives emanating from new Attorney General Loretta Lynch, on the part of U.S. attorneys to prosecute immigration crimes, because there is absolutely no reason whatever to think that aliens have suddenly become more law-abiding in the lenient "no rules, just right" atmosphere created by this White House.

As we lurch and stumble through the last year of this president's hammerlock on the levers of power, look for nothing good to occur in the arena of immigration enforcement; hope, rather, that he doesn't leave such a shambles that it cannot be undone.