For three years the Biden administration has claimed that its policies are designed to focus on criminal aliens to a greater degree than the policies under the Trump administration. As DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas put it in a September 2021 memo, "By exercising our discretionary authority in a targeted way, we can focus our efforts on those who pose a threat to national security, public safety, and border security and thus threaten America's well-being."
It is now clear that the promised outcome has not been met and that the Biden administration's policies have gutted the nation’s immigration enforcement system, with no concern about the number of criminal aliens that are being released into our communities.
Official data from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reveals that the Biden administration has arrested and removed significantly fewer criminal aliens than the Trump administration. (This data comes from both ICE public releases as well as a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the Center for Immigration Studies.) Contrary to Secretary Mayorkas's claim, public safety and national security have been significantly undermined by the Biden administration’s reckless policies, and the threats the administration has created will continue to inflict damage on American society for many years to come.
This analysis compares the first three years of ICE criminal alien data under the Trump administration (FYs 2017, 2018, and 2019) to the first three years of ICE criminal alien data under the Biden administration (FYs 2021, 2022, and 2023), and finds that criminal aliens have been top beneficiaries of the Biden administration’s immigration agenda. A criminal alien is one who has a criminal conviction or pending criminal charges.
The data shows the Biden administration is responsible for the following when comparing FYs 2017, 2018, and 2019 to FYs 2021, 2022, and 2023:
- 57 percent decrease in arrests of criminal aliens
- 68 percent decrease in at-large arrests of criminal aliens
- 44 percent decrease in detainer requests issued on criminal aliens
- 67 percent decrease in deportations of criminal aliens
- 55 percent decrease in immigration-related criminal convictions
The combined number of crimes on the rap sheets of aliens arrested by ICE during these years has dropped by 56 percent under the Biden administration. Comparing these two time periods shows a decline in every crime category reported by ICE, including, for example:
- 63 percent decrease in larceny records
- 57 percent decrease in stolen vehicle records
- 55 percent decrease in burglary records
- 48 percent decrease in assault records
- 47 percent decrease in robbery records
- 34 percent decrease in kidnapping records
It should be noted that total annual arrests and removals are larger than the numbers discussed here as this analysis looks only at data related to aliens with criminal histories and does not include data on aliens without known criminal histories. It should also be noted that the numbers are actually worse for the Biden administration, as this data is reported on a fiscal year calendar, meaning nearly the first four months of FY21 fell under the Trump administration (October 1, 2020, through January 20, 2021). Likewise, the first part of FY17 was under Obama. As reported by ICE, the data cannot be broken down by month to allow for a more specific analysis. The complete ICE annual reports compared here are available online: FY17, FY18, FY19, FY21, FY22, FY23.
Biden Administration Has Cut Arrests of Criminal Aliens by 57 Percent
According to official data released by ICE, the Biden administration’s immigration policies have resulted in a 57 percent decline in administrative arrests of criminal aliens.
In the first three fiscal years under the Trump administration, ICE made 389,237 administrative arrests of aliens with criminal convictions or pending criminal charges (FY17 at 127,992; FY18 at 138,117; and FY19 at 123,128).
In the first three fiscal years under the Biden administration, ICE made 165,650 administrative arrests of aliens with criminal convictions or pending criminal charges (FY21 at 45,432; FY22 at 46,396; FY23 at 73,822).
Despite the Biden administration’s claim that their immigration policies are designed to focus ICE on dangerous criminal aliens, its own data reveals that critics of its policies are correct to raise concerns that the administration’s real intention is to undermine ICE’s mission and gut immigration enforcement, rather than improve public safety. Tens of thousands of criminal aliens have been allowed to remain in the United States as a result of the Biden administration’s extremely narrow immigration enforcement policies.
Figure 1. ICE Arrests of Criminal Aliens, Trump (FYs 2017-2019) vs. Biden (FYs 2021-2023)
At-Large Arrests of Criminal Aliens Down 68 Percent
At-large arrests are those made by ICE during public enforcement operations, as opposed to custody transfer arrests that occur between ICE and different law enforcement agencies in a jail or prison, for example.
According to official data released by ICE, the Biden administration’s immigration policies have resulted in a 68 percent decline in at-large arrests of criminal aliens.
In the first three fiscal years under the Trump administration, ICE made 86,212 at-large arrests of aliens with criminal convictions or pending criminal charges (FY17 at 31,242; FY18 at 29,549; and FY19 at 25,421).
In the first three fiscal years under the Biden administration, ICE made 27,881 at-large arrests of aliens with criminal convictions or pending criminal charges (FY21 at 7,561; FY22 at 7,881; FY23 at 12,376).
The data clearly illustrates that the Biden administration has conducted fewer ICE operations and that there has been little effort aimed at removing criminal aliens from our communities. Under the Trump administration, ICE made more at-large arrests in its first year than the Biden administration has made in total over the entire past three years.
Assuming that foreign nationals have been committing crime at a rate that is largely unchanged between these years, it is safe to say that tens of thousands of criminal aliens are being allowed to run free under the Biden administration’s dangerous immigration policies.
Figure 2. ICE At-Large Arrests of Criminal Aliens, Trump (FYs 2017-2019) vs. Biden (FYs 2021-2023)
Detainer Requests on Criminal Aliens Down 44 Percent
The Biden administration’s anti-enforcement policies prohibit ICE officers from taking custody of most criminal aliens arrested by cooperative state and local law enforcement. Historically, tens of thousands of criminal aliens first arrested by local enforcement (for violations of state and local laws) have been transferred to ICE custody every year and then processed for removal. To initiate this custody transfer, ICE issues a detainer request to state and local law enforcement agencies. A cooperative agency will honor the detainer and facilitate transfer of a criminal alien into ICE custody, while a non-cooperative agency, usually located in a so-called “sanctuary” jurisdiction, will ignore the detainer and release the criminal alien back into the community.
Under the Biden administration’s policies, which exempt most illegal aliens from enforcement, ICE is prohibited from issuing detainers in most instances, forcing cooperative law enforcement agencies to release most criminal aliens back into communities across the nation. The data indicates that the Biden administration is not even attempting to take custody of tens of thousands of criminal aliens arrested by local law enforcement, despite the fact that the aliens have been arrested for a state or local (non-immigration) crime and are deportable from the United States.
In the first three fiscal years under the Trump administration, ICE issued 484,990 detainer requests. In the first three years under the Biden administration, ICE issued only 270,127 detainer requests. This is a 44 percent decrease in detainers issued by ICE.
Figure 3. ICE Detainers Issued on Criminal Aliens, Trump (FYs 2017-2019) vs. Biden (FYs 2021-2023)
Deportations of Criminal Aliens Down 67 Percent
According to official data released by ICE, the Biden administration’s immigration policies have resulted in a 67 percent decline in removals of criminal aliens.
In the first three fiscal years under the Trump administration, ICE removed 485,930 aliens with criminal convictions or pending criminal charges (FY17 at 144,073; FY18 at 168,058; and FY19 at 173,799).
In the first three fiscal years under the Biden administration, ICE removed 158,931 aliens with criminal convictions or pending criminal charges (FY21 at 44,933; FY22 at 44,096; FY23 at 69,902).
The data clearly illustrates that the Biden administration’s decision to conduct fewer arrests of criminal aliens has resulted in fewer removals of criminal aliens and an increased threat to public safety and national security. The dramatic decrease in removals has also sent a strong message to people overseas that unlawful entry into the United States comes with a decreased risk of deportation, undoubtedly contributing to the unprecedented mass illegal immigration that is occurring under the Biden administration.
Figure 4. ICE Removals of Criminal Aliens, Trump (FYs 2017-2019) vs. Biden (FYs 2021-2023)
Immigration-related Criminal Prosecutions Down 55 Percent
Working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, ICE enforces criminal violations of immigration law through the prosecution of offenders. The criminal statutes enforced include, but are not limited to: 8 U.S.C. § 1325, Improper Entry by Alien; 8 U.S.C. § 1326, Reentry of Removed Aliens; 8 U.S.C. § 1253, Penalties Related to Removal; 18 U.S.C. § 1361, Government Property or Contracts; 18 U.S.C. § 1546, Fraud and Misuse of Visas, Permits and Other Documents; 18 U.S.C. § 111, Assaulting, Resisting, or Impeding Certain Officers or Employees; and 18 U.S.C § 922(g), Felon in Possession of a Firearm.
In the first three fiscal years under the Trump administration, ICE saw 19,978 immigration-related criminal arrests, 18,340 indictments, and 17,784 convictions.
In the first three fiscal years under the Biden administration, ICE saw 7,523 immigration-related criminal arrests, 7,529 indictments, and 8,090 convictions.
As the data shows, the Biden administration’s policies resulted in a 55 percent decrease in the number of aliens convicted for immigration-related crimes. Despite social media posts from the Biden administration warning about consequences for violations of immigration law, this dramatic decrease in prosecutions is undoubtedly sending a clear message to people overseas that illegal immigration to the United States carries little risk of prosecution under the Biden administration.
Figure 5. Immigration Crime Convictions, Trump (FYs 2017-2019) vs. Biden (FYs 2021-2023)
Criminal Records Data Reveals Dramatic Threat to Public Safety
The Biden administration has also overseen a dramatic decrease in the total number of criminal offenses on the records of aliens arrested. The table below compares the first three years of the Biden administration to the first three years of the Trump administration. The criminal offense records published by ICE include both criminal charges and criminal convictions. The Biden administration did not publish this crime data for FY21; it was obtained exclusively by the Center for Immigration Studies through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
The rap sheets of criminal aliens arrested in Fiscal Years 2017-19 included more than 1,542,707 total offenses. By contrast, the rap sheets of criminal aliens arrested in Fiscal Years 2021-23 included 681,614 total offenses. This is a 56 percent decrease and further evidence that the Biden administration has dramatically decreased ICE’s focus on criminal aliens.
When combined together, there were 2,224,321 offenses on the rap sheets of aliens arrested during these six years. It should be noted that these numbers are of total crimes on all rap sheets of aliens arrested by ICE during the given time period, and not a count of individual criminal aliens, due to the fact that some criminal aliens are responsible for multiple crimes listed below (e.g., an illegal alien with a DUI record who commits an assault and a weapons offense). It should also be noted that the total number of crimes on the rap sheets of aliens arrested during these years was actually higher; ICE reports totals only for crime categories where total offenses were 1,000 or greater, leaving crime categories that fell under this threshold unreported.
Table 1. Total Criminal Offenses on Records of Aliens Arrested by ICE, Trump (FYs 2017-2019) vs. Biden (FYs 2021-2023)
|Traffic Offenses – DUI
|Obstructing Judiciary, Congress, Legislature, Etc.
|Invasion of Privacy
|Sex Offenses (Not involving Assault or Commercialized Sex)
The administration’s claim that its immigration policies are designed to focus on criminal aliens is demonstrably false. The Biden administration has dramatically cut immigration enforcement in the United States and the result has been a decrease in arrests, prosecutions, and removals of criminal aliens. The administration has chosen to leave tens of thousands of criminal aliens in American communities without any apparent concern about the impact on public safety and national security. This is happening amid a historic influx of mass illegal immigration into the United States which is undoubtedly adding large numbers of new criminal aliens to the country.
The Biden administration has significantly increased the workload for all federal agencies tasked with carrying out enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws, but has not sought increased resources for these agencies. For example, ICE has seen no commensurate increase in funding for additional officers, prosecuting attorneys, or detention space. If Congress seeks to reverse the fallout from the Biden administration’s reckless policies, Congress must immediately address resource needs so that a future administration can be ready to immediately carry out the congressionally mandated immigration enforcement mission.