New ICE Report Touts Improved Enforcement — Until Compared to Last Year

By Jessica M. Vaughan on March 15, 2022

The new immigration enforcement report released last week presents a very selective and opaque picture of ICE activity that attempts to mask the collapse of immigration enforcement under Biden policies, which have severely limited the types of cases ICE officers are allowed to work. Acting ICE Director Tae Johnson claims to show “measurable success” for ICE during the year, but when the metrics he offers are compared with ICE’s performance in 2020, it becomes apparent that the Biden policies are achieving “broad operational success” only if the goal is to suppress immigration enforcement. Rather than helping enhance public safety with more focused priorities, under the Biden policies and Johnson’s leadership, and during a historic surge in illegal arrivals at the southern border, ICE is arresting and removing even fewer deportable aliens — and even fewer criminals — than was the case in 2020, when ICE was operating under the pandemic lockdown restrictions.

The new report — let’s call it the “ICE report” — is not the comprehensive statistical enforcement report that typically is released in December of each year, with details on ICE arrests, detention, removals, and more, broken down by ICE field office. The 2020 edition of that annual report — let’s call it the “ERO report” — put out by the Enforcement and Removal Operations division of ICE, is here. My colleague Jon Feere explains the difference between the two reports and what information is still missing here.

In this post, I will provide the most important statistics from the new ICE annual report alongside the same metrics that I pulled from the 2020 ERO report. This comparison begins to reveal the extent to which enforcement has been stifled by Biden policies. These rules were initially imposed in January 2021, formalized in February 2021, and then slightly revised in September 2021.

The Johnson ICE report declares success, largely based on an increase in the percentage of ICE cases in 2021 that involved deportable aliens who were convicted of serious crimes. The report presents statistics showing a higher number, a higher monthly rate, and a higher percentage of ICE arrests of aggravated felons in 2021 over 2020. It notes that a higher percentage of ICE removals in 2021 were aliens convicted of crimes and that a much higher percentage of ICE removals were aggravated felons and felons generally. Johnson attributes this success to the implementation of the Biden policies, which not only limit the types of cases ICE officers can act on (to the most serious criminals, with many exceptions), but that also require much more paperwork and a multi-level review process, sometimes extending all the way to ICE headquarters. These restrictions are explained in more detail here, here, and here.

The ICE report provides a few actual numbers showing how many total arrests, aggravated felons, murderers, and other violent criminals were arrested in 2021 (more than 28,000), and how many gang members and known or suspected terrorists were removed (more than 2,700 and 34, respectively).

Great work — or is it? These numbers lack context, as the fact-checkers say. When compared with the same metrics from 2021, they are concerning. As the table below shows, under Biden policies, yes, a higher percentage of ICE removals were categorized as aggravated felons (assuming they are counting them the same way as in years past), but it turns out that under these priorities, they are arresting a lot fewer criminals, violent and otherwise — fewer murderers, rapists, robbers, and kidnappers. And even though the percentage of aggravated felon removals was higher in 2021 (26 percent, compared to 5 percent in 2020), the total number of serious criminals who were removed is actually lower (27,145, down from 35,882 in 2020). Which would you rather have: a higher percentage of criminals removed who fit into a certain definition in immigration law, or a higher number of criminal aliens removed who were convicted of all types of felonies?

The table shows the numbers in 2020 and 2021 for the specific statistics presented in the 2021 ICE report. The numbers in red were left out of the 2021 ICE report, but were reported in the 2020 ERO report, calculated by me using the data in both reports, or in some cases, using data we obtained in a FOIA request.

ICE Metrics: 2021 and 2020

  2021 2020
Total Arrests 74,082 103,603
     Aggravated Felon Arrests* 12,025 6,815
     At-Large Arrests* 25,993 23,932
Monthly Average of Aggravated Felon Arrests Since 2/18 1,034 568**
Percent of Arrests Convicted Criminals 49% 68%
Monthly Average of Total Arrests 6,234 8,634
Most Serious Criminal Conviction    
Homicide 1,506 1,837
Sex Assault 3,415 4,385
Assault 19,549 37,247
Robbery 2,717 3,816
Kidnapping 1,063 1,637
Total 59,011 185,884
Post 2/18 28,677 71,619
Percent Convicted Criminals 66% 56%
Gang Members 2,718 4,276
Known/Suspected Terrorists 34 31
Aggravated Felons/Month since 2/18 937 763**
Aggravated Felons 26% 5%
Number of Aggravated Felons 15,343 9,161
Percent Serious Criminals (Felons or Aggravated Felons) 46% 19%
Number of Serious Criminals (Felons or Aggravated Felons) 27,145 35,882

* These are the two sub-categories of total arrests that were highlighted in the ICE report.

** Monthly average for entire year. 


I hope that the 2021 ERO Report will be released soon. If not, I have several FOIA requests pending that will enable me to publish much of the same information.