Under the Biden administration, there has been a drop in the number of people arrested and deported for being in the US illegally. The dip comes after the administration narrowed its enforcement focus to people with criminal backgrounds or those who pose a threat.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently sought to prioritize looking at immigrants posing a threat to national security, public safety, and border security. An executive order signed by Biden shortly after he took office prompted the shift.
The Wall Street Journal was the first to report the dip in arrests and deportations. The number of undocumented immigrants ICE arrested plunged from 6,679 in December 2020, Trump’s last full month as President, to 2,214 in March 2021.
Early 2021, ICE implemented tailored enforcement guidelines based on a priority system, doing away with the more aggressive approach the Trump administration followed. On April 6, a senior ICE official told CNN the new guidelines try to “focus resources on the most pressing national security and public safety and border security challenges that we are facing.”
The guidelines also establish strict parameters for ICE officers, especially if they encounter an undocumented immigrant not being targeted. The ICE official added, “If everyone’s priority, then no one’s a priority, so we do need to make some choices about where to focus our resources.”
The Trump administration allowed ICE to conduct a large-scale workplace immigration raid and operations targeting families. The Biden administration instructed ICE field offices to coordinate their operations and obtain pre-approval for enforcement and removal actions not meeting the criteria of priority cases.
When enforcing the new guidelines earlier this year, ICE acting Director Tae Johnson said the step would help “better coordinate our efforts, achieve consistency in our operations, and inform the development of the secretary’s new enforcement guidelines.” He further stated there have been mixed reviews from the workforce. About this, he said, “There are, of course, officers who are not as fond of this approach as others are. And others are very appreciative of the change and are implementing it enthusiastically.”
Under the Biden administration, deportations dropped to 2,886 in March 2021 from 5,838 in December 2020 and 10,353 in October 2020.