More Evidence of Enforcement Stagnation

By Jessica M. Vaughan on July 27, 2013

A new report tracking the number of ICE detainers issued confirms that interior immigration enforcement has declined significantly in recent months. This report corroborates my previous analysis of another set of ICE statistics that revealed a considerable deterioration in interior enforcement since 2011.

According to the data provided to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a government watchdog project of Syracuse University, this fiscal year ICE is issuing 19 percent fewer detainers than last year. Detainers are formal requests from ICE to another law enforcement agency, usually a local jail, not to release an alien who is in their custody after arrest so that ICE can begin the removal process. Since ICE now limits its interior enforcement to removing only those aliens who have been convicted of other crimes, detainers are a key indicator of interior enforcement activity.

TRAC reports that in the first four months of FY 2013, ICE issued an average of 18,427 detainers per month. In the first four months of FY 2012, ICE issued an average of 22,832 detainers per month.

The total number of detainers issued by ICE in 2012 was 273,982. So far in 2013, ICE has issued 73,709 detainers. At that pace, ICE is on track to issue 220,027 detainers this year; that is, ICE is on track to remove nearly 54,000 fewer criminal aliens than last year. Not very reassuring.

A detainer is just the beginning of the removal process for criminal aliens. The actual removal may occur soon after, or not until much later (if the alien serves a long sentence or contests deportation in immigration court), or never (if ICE drops the case, a common outcome under current prosecutorial discretion policies that excuse aliens who commit misdemeanors, traffic offenses, or claim to be DREAMers). So while the number of detainers in a year will not correspond exactly to the number of removals, it does represent the major pipeline for removal cases. Immigration detainers are also issued by other DHS agencies, most notably the Border Patrol, although these are not included in the TRAC statistics.

ICE statistics that I reviewed earlier this year in connection with the ICE union lawsuit challenging the administration's abuse of prosecutorial discretion showed a similar decline in ICE interior enforcement activity. I found that total removals, removals of convicted criminals, and interior removals had all declined since the imposition of policies to restrict ICE officers' ability to process aliens discovered after arrest by local police and sheriffs. As of March 2013, total removals were down 40 percent, removals of criminals were down 36 percent, and interior removals were down 50 percent since May 2011.

In contrast, identifications of criminal aliens though ICE's new Secure Communities program were up 24 percent over the same time period.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration and proponents of the Schumer-Rubio bill have been claiming that deportations are at an all-time high and that enforcement has never been tougher or more effective. DHS reported that more than 409,849 aliens were removed in 2012, an increase over 2011, when 396,906 were reported removed.

So how is it that DHS was able to report nearly 410,000 removals in 2012 when ICE issued fewer than 274,000 detainers? Did tens of thousands of illegal aliens walk in off the street and volunteer to be removed?

I asked ICE, but have not yet received a response.

The answer, according to my earlier analysis, is that the record number of removals DHS is claiming is based not on more robust, smarter, more effective interior enforcement, but on new operational practices that funnel tens of thousands of aliens apprehended by the Border Patrol into ICE detention facilities long enough to be counted as a removal, not just once, but potentially multiple times. The Border Patrol cases, which were never counted by DHS as removals before 2011, are numerous enough to mask the fact that interior enforcement has declined significantly in recent years. See "The Deportation Lie", as well as this article, with an excellent graphic, for more details.

The Obama administration has cooked the deportation statistics in order to cover up the effects of its enforcement-suppressing policies and to create a bogus talking point on "record" deportations. This false factoid has been ardently repeated by mainstream media reporters who have suspended all skepticism and failed to dig beneath the DHS press releases, thereby missing the more important story of how enforcement in the interior has been decimated, and the consequences that has in our communities.