Deportations of illegal immigrants by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in FY 2022 rose slightly compared to the prior fiscal year, although still significantly lower than during the Trump administration, as ICE diverted significant resources to assist overwhelmed Border Patrol agents at the southern border, according to the agency’s annual report released Friday.
ICE’s report showed that the agency removed 72,177 illegal immigrants in FY 2022, slightly more than the 59,011 deported in FY 2021. That number in turn had marked a sharp drop from the 185,884 deported in FY 20 (the last full fiscal year of the Trump administration) and 267,258 in FY 2019.
The agency said that those deportations included removals to over 150 countries, with about half being conducted by charter flight. Among those deported were 2,667 known or suspected gang members 55 known or suspected terrorists, and 74 fugitives wanted for crimes including rape, homicide and kidnapping.
The majority of the deportations were illegal immigrants for whom Customs and Border Protection (CBP) was the arresting agency. Of those deportations for which ICE was the arresting agency, numbers were down to just 28,204 from 31,557 in FY21 and 62,739 in FY 20.
Meanwhile, arrests rose significantly in FY 2022, with the agency’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) making 142,750 administrative arrests, compared to just 74,082 in FY21. In FY 20 there were 103,603 arrests and in FY19 there were 143,099 arrests.
However, the report says that the increase in arrests can be attributed primarily due to the increase in Border Patrol encounters at the southern border — which hit 2.3 million encounters in FY2022 — and limited ICE resources being diverted to assist its fellow DHS agency in processing those migrant encounters into the interior. Over 96,000 arrests were classified as ‘other immigration violators,’ the majority of which could be attributed to migration across the southern border, officials said. The aency described a ‘significant workload increase’ from it having to shirt efforts to focusing on recent border crossers, rather than its typical focus on interior enforcement.
On a call with reporters, ICE Acting Director Tae Johnson said that in FY22, ‘ICE dedicated significant resources to helping secure the southwest border and ensuring the processing of migrants.’
‘We detailed thousands of law enforcement officers to the southwest border to investigate human smuggling and human trafficking and assisted with processing of migrants into ICE’s Alternatives to Detention program to help ensure migrants being released by CBP were meeting their reporting and immigration obligations,’ he said.
‘ICE also assisted with CBP’s administration of Title 42 by expelling Title 42 amenable arriving migrants and decompressed Border Patrol stations by using lateral flights and ground transportation,’ he said.
The Biden administration, on entering office in 2021, initially sought to put a moratorium on all deportations but was blocked by legal action. It subsequently implemented new guidance that dramatically narrowed who ICE agents could target for arrest and deportation.
That guidance prioritized recent border crossers, national security threats and public safety threats. Administration officials said the guidance allowed them to focus on quality rather than quantity — arresting the most pressing threats to the public. Additionally, the administration issued additional guidance which limited where ICE could make arrests of illegal immigrants. The guidance led DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to declare that the administration had ‘fundamentally changed’ interior enforcement.
‘For the first time ever, our policy explicitly states that a non-citizen’s unlawful presence in the United States will not, by itself, be a basis for the initiation of an enforcement action,’ he said in an interview with CBS News in January.
‘This is a profound shift away from the prior administration’s indiscriminate enforcement,’ he said.
The guidance, which coincided with the sharp drop in arrests and deportations overall seen in last year’s report, faced significant opposition from Republicans — who accused the administration of reducing interior enforcement at a time when hundreds of thousands of migrants were hitting the border each month.
The guidance was blocked by a federal judge in June, and has since gone to the Supreme Court. The court heard oral arguments on the case last month and a ruling is expected in the middle of 2023. In the meantime, the agency is not implementing the guidance.
The report highlighted the agency’s focus on those with criminal histories, stating that ERO arrested 46,396 illegal immigrants with criminal histories, including over 20,000 charges of convictions for assault and over 8,000 for sexual offenses. The 49,396 arrests with criminal histories is about the same as the 45,432 arrested in FY21, but again down from the 93,607 in FY20.
Meanwhile, the average number of those detained in ICE custody in FY 22 increased to 26,299 from a 21,939 in FY 21, and those on the non-detained docket — those who are released into the interior as their cases are heard — rose sharply from 3.7 million in FY 21 to nearly 4.8 million in FY22 due to the ongoing migrant crisis at the southern border.
Outside of ERO’s operations, the report also touts the successes of its Homeland Security Investigations. The report says the subset of the agency conducted 36,685 criminal arrests, seized over 1.8 million pounds of narcotics, aided 1,170 victims of child exploitation, and assisted 765 victims of human trafficking. Additionally, the agency seized currency and assets of more than $5 billion — a new record for the agency.