ICE Reverts to Law Enforcement to Boost Deportation Numbers in 2012

By Jessica M. Vaughan on February 26, 2013

In a surprising and refreshing reversal, last year ICE leadership, when confronted with data showing a decline in criminal alien deportations in the wake of the Obama administration's "prosecutorial discretion" policies, decided to allow ICE agents in the field to use conventional, tried-and-true law enforcement techniques to identify and remove more illegal alien criminals, according to memos obtained and released by USA Today — to a point.

The article and memos describe ICE headquarters personnel as panicked and obsessed with finding ways to boost deportation numbers in the spring of 2012, after agency analysts monitoring the numbers warned of significant decreases in ICE arrests following the much-maligned policy changes. According to ICE senior manager David Venturella, aides to ICE Director John Morton met daily to discuss the problem and "seemed to think their careers depended on that number [criminal alien deportations] going up."

It has been established that ICE has cooked the books to enable it to boast of "record" deportations, inflating its numbers by counting certain people arrested by the Border Patrol, and adding in people who were granted "voluntary return", an alternative form of expulsion used mainly in the border areas. See these reports at and Politico for more information. So one might reasonably have expected more attempts at smoke and mirrors rather than actual enforcement, when the numbers dipped again.

Instead, this time ICE seems to have allowed its agents in the field to resurrect some old initiatives and try some new things. The ideas they submitted to headquarters included:

  • Temporary details of Border Patrol and inspections agents to help screen inmates in county jails that are not currently well served by ICE due to distance and short staffing;

  • Combing motor vehicle department records for fraudulent or denied foreign-born applicants;

  • Increasing bond amounts to reduce the number of fugitives;

  • Working with local law enforcement agencies to identify gang members, probationers, sex offenders, drunk drivers, and other serious traffic offenders; and

  • Encouraging local prosecutors to reach plea deals with aliens instead of dismissing charges so that criminal aliens can be officially classified as criminals for ICE public relations purposes.

The detailed list of proposals submitted by the Atlanta Field Office includes estimates of the number of removable aliens ICE agents expected to identify. For example, one ICE agent assigned to the Southeast Regional Fugitive Taskforce run by the U.S. Marshals made 80 arrests of "egregious" and "top priority" criminal aliens. They predicted that a team assigned to the Macon, Ga., area could fill a busload of criminal aliens every day. Agents in the Charleston, S.C., area anticipated finding 400-1,000 probationer and parolee criminal aliens in their region, supplemented by another 10 arrests of drunk drivers each time they participated in a local DUI checkpoint operation, and another 25 to 75 simply by periodically reviewing the lists of individuals scheduled to appear in court in Aiken County.

These are significant numbers of removable aliens in just one relatively rural part of the country, who can be identified and removed with relatively simple law enforcement work. Imagine how many ICE might find in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., if agents were allowed to do their jobs there.

It is remarkable that these common sense initiatives actually had to be approved by headquarters. Agents were careful to point out, however, that they would still adhere to the current "worst of the worst" (or what I call the "axe-murderers only") standards of the administration, and be sure to release any illegal aliens who were not "serious" criminals. As the USA Today article noted:

How many people were deported because of the new tactics ICE proposed, and how widely they were implemented, remains unclear. In one instance outside Asheville, N.C., agents arrested 15 immigrants — many of whom hand only minor convictions, frequently for driving without a license — at a police traffic checkpoint, but were promptly ordered by officials at the field office to release most of them.

One document also notes that only convicted criminals, fugitives, and multiple illegal entrants would be put on the path to removal. Certain removable aliens would be released, including those falling under guidelines for "prosecutorial discretion" leniency and, interestingly, fugitive aliens who were ordered removed before 2008.

Judging by the eyebrow-raising estimates for the number of removable aliens who are identified in these localities because they have had encounters with local law enforcement, whether for assault, drugs, or unlicensed driving, one can't help but wonder how high the deportation numbers could be — and how much safer our communities would be — if agents were permitted to enforce the laws of the land instead of ordered to release so many under the foolish "prosecutorial discretion" policies.