The number of deportations the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement carried out in April was the lowest recorded since the agency began, despite illegal border crossings reaching a two-decade high.
Preliminary data obtained by The Washington Post reveals ICE deported 2,962 immigrants in April, a 20 percent drop from March, when 3,716 were deported.
This is the first time ever that fewer than 3,000 immigrants were deported by ICE in a single month.
ICE has not yet officially published the statistics from April and have not commented on the record numbers.
President Biden has pushed to reform ICE since taking office, and in January placed a 100-day pause on many deportations and greatly limited who can be arrested and deported by ICE.
The deportation moratorium drew fierce pushback from Republicans and was blocked by a federal judge in Texas days after it went into effect.
The most recent figures on border crossings, meanwhile, show illegal crossings shot up by 70 percent between February and March.
Border Patrol said they encountered 172,331 at the border in March, up from 101,028 people in February. April numbers have not been released.
ICE is not the only agency which deports migrants from the United States, so the fall in removals by their agents does not necessarily mean that overall removals are falling.
ICE is responsible for enforcement within the United States, but the U.S. Customs and Border Protection is responsible for enforcement at the country’s borders.
Asylum-seeking migrants cross the Rio Grande River at the border with Mexico in Roma, Texas, on May 5
Border crossings such as this one has been overwhelming law enforcement at the border
Official deportation figures have been sharply down since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, when the Trump administration brought in the public health order known as Title 42.
Title 42 allows U.S. Customs and Border Protection to quickly return border-crossers to Mexico, but the procedure is not classed as a deportation.
So far, Biden has kept that health order in place.
CBP reports that they have made 236,376 expulsions under Title 42 at the southern border so far in 2021.
That includes 101,897 expulsions at the southern border in March alone, the last month with published data.
Ronald Vitiello, the acting director of ICE under Donald Trump from June 30, 2018 to April 12, 2019, said Biden’s administrative priorities have caused a shift in the removal of immigrants from the United States.
‘This administration has de-emphasized the likelihood that people would get arrested if they aren’t a threat to public safety or recently crossed the border, so they are not going to have strong removal numbers,’ Vitiello said to the Post.
‘The odds of being arrested just for being in the country illegally were always extremely low, and now they’ve basically ruled it out by policy,’ Vitiello added.
Asylum-seeking migrants from Romania sit along railway tracks as they wait to be transported by the U.S. border patrol after crossing the Rio Grande river into the US on Wednesday
Dozens of asylum-seeking migrants from Romania, Armenia, and Central America, including a group of unaccompanied minors, await to be transported to a U.S. border patrol facility
Over the past seven months, ICE has deported around 37,000 immigrants. The agency is on pace to deport less than 55,000 immigrants this fiscal year, a number that has never fallen below 100,000 deportations since ICE was founded in 2003.
During the first three years of Donald Trump’s presidency – prior to the coronavirus pandemic – an average of 240,000 deportations took place each year.
ICE has made approximately 2,500 interior arrests per month during the Biden administration, a drop from 6,000 per month towards the end of Trump’s presidency.
Last month, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas also banned ICE from making arrests at courthouses.
‘The expansion of civil immigration arrests at courthouses during the prior administration had a chilling effect on individuals’ willingness to come to court or work cooperatively with law enforcement,’ Mayorkas said in a statement at the time.
There are currently around 15,000 detainees in ICE custody, the lowest number in several decades.
Some organizations, such as the ACLU, is pushing for even less by asking DHS to close down more ICE facilities.
‘The number of detained people is currently lower than it’s been in two decades: President Biden has a unique moment to shrink the infrastructure that’s been used to abuse and traumatize immigrants for decades,’ said ACLU attorney Naureen Shah.
Joe Biden’s’ policies are reshaping the enforcement effort at the border, though his 100-day moratorium on many deportations was blocked by a judge back in February
Biden has previously issued a 100-day moratorium on most deportations from the country, but a federal judge blocked its enforcement back in February.
On Monday the White House released new data claiming that the number of migrant minors in US Customs and Border Protection custody has dropped by 88 percent since the end of March.
According to the figures touted by Mayorkas, only 677 children remain in CBP facilities, down from the 5,767 on March 28.
On Tuesday, Psaki called out the Trump era immigration policies while celebrating Biden’s accomplishments to this point.
‘After four years of an immigration system rooted in destructive and chaotic policies, President Biden is taking the challenge head on and building a fair, orderly and human immigration system,’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at the top of her briefing on Tuesday.
‘Clearly we’re not done, there’s a lot of work ahead,’ Psaki added. ‘Migration is a dynamic and evolving challenge, but the president has a plan and we are working on implementing it.’
ICE statistics reveal there are approximately 11 million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States.
Of those illegal immigrants, around 1.2 million have been ordered to leave the country by a judge.