Deportations by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement fell sharply last year under President Biden to the lowest levels in the agency’s history despite record-high border crossings, the Washington Post reports. During the year that ended Sept. 30, ICE recorded 59,011 deportations, down from 185,884 in 2020. The lower numbers were partly the result of changes triggered by the coronavirus pandemic that have allowed U.S. agents to rapidly expel unlawful border crossers under the Title 42 public health code, a procedure that does not count as a deportation.
Another gauge of ICE enforcement activity — immigration arrests in the U.S. interior — also showed a significant drop relative to historic averages. ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) made about 74,082 administrative arrests during fiscal 2021, down from 104,000 during fiscal 2020 and an average of 148,000 annually from 2017 through 2019. The administration said the figure reflects the administration’s efforts to emphasize “quality over quantity” by directing ICE to prioritize immigrants who pose public safety and national security threats. An annual report released Friday said ICE arrested 12,025 people last year with aggravated felony convictions, nearly double the 2020 total. The agency highlighted a targeted operation that arrested 495 “noncitizen sex offenders” from 54 different countries, more than double the number taken into custody in 2020. Biden campaigned for president promising a break with the Trump administration's aggressive enforcement approach and unabashed enthusiasm for mass immigration arrests. After taking office, Biden ordered a “pause” on deportations that upended the agency’s operations and left officers grumbling.