ICE has finally come up with a public explanation for why deportation numbers are so much lower in 2013, even with the same book-cooking it has done to claim "record levels" in the past, which I reported on earlier this year.
I was told several times by mainstream reporters looking into both the drop in numbers and the administration's statistical manipulations that ICE was still "fumbling around" trying to put together a response to my reporting. That response appeared yesterday in the form of Michael Bender's article at Bloomberg News.
Bender reports: "The U.S. deported 343,020 people in the U.S. illegally from Oct. 1, 2012, to Sept. 7, 2013, the most recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement data show. If that pace continued through the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year, removals would reach a six-year low." I am not sure why he did not report the actual 2013 year-end total of 364,700 (down from 409,800 in 2012), which was leaked to me in October and which ICE has confirmed.
According to the article, ICE says deportations are down because of a laser-like focus on "public safety, national security, and border security". Bender includes ICE's talking point that 58 percent of the deportations were criminals, up from 31 percent in 2008.
Bender does not mention that although the percentage of criminal deportations is up, the number of criminal deportations is down, from 225,000 to 216,800. That ICE removed 9,000 fewer criminals this year is not a good thing for public safety, especially considering that the number of criminals turned over to ICE through Secure Communities and other programs is greater than ever before (700,000). This is catch-and-release on a massive scale — ICE is now releasing more criminals than it is removing.
Why would the number of criminal deportations be down if ICE is so focused on targeting criminal aliens to the exclusion of all others? Enforcement opponents claim that it is because the people ICE was removing before were not really criminals. Nonsense. It is actually because more than half of ICE's removals are illegal border crossers who were apprehended by the Border Patrol and transferred briefly to ICE custody before removal, not aliens arrested by ICE agents in the interior.
This smoke-and-mirrors tactic of counting Border Patrol apprehensions as ICE deportations is how the administration accomplished "record" deportations in recent years. In 2013, about 56 percent of deportations claimed by ICE were Border Patrol arrests. Only about 40 percent of the deportations claimed by ICE in 2013 resulted from arrests made by ICE agents (compared to 63 percent in 2008).
These numbers undercut another administration talking point — that the number of people in immigration detention remains the same, even with deportations dropping, because of the "arbitrary and expensive" detention bed mandate imposed by Congress. The problem is that those beds are now being used mainly for newly apprehended border crossers, not for illegal alien sex offenders, drunk drivers, gang members, drug dealers, or immigration absconders found in the interior who are usually released if they claim to be Dreamers, if they have children, or if they claim fear of persecution in their homeland.
I was astonished to see in ICE's internal records that 60 percent of all book-ins to ICE custody in 2013 occurred in the four regions that are located in the southwest border area, with half of those occurring in the San Antonio region where most of the illegal border crossing activity is now taking place. As recently as two years ago, only 40 percent of all book-ins were in the border area. Los Angeles used to be one of the top deportation locations, but no longer — their numbers are down 33 percent from last year, as ICE resources and attention have shifted to supporting Border Patrol operations and away from interior arrests.
Other humorous parts of the article include one of the most innocuous descriptions of prosecutorial discretion I've ever seen, saying that it is to protect young immigrants, crime victims, and "individuals pursuing legitimate civil rights complaints", as well as military families ("to avoid "stress") — as if ICE ever was trying to remove anyone in those categories. Nor could Bender resist rehashing the laughable allegation of the open borders crowd that the prison-industrial complex is running immigration policy, when in fact less than 2 percent of ICE's docket is detained on any given day.
Look for all of these excuses for the decline and fall of immigration enforcement to be repeated endlessly as demands for amnesty legislation continue into the new year.