President Biden’s campaign pledge to place a moratorium on the deportation of immigrants who have entered the U.S. illegally appears to be holding steady. Newly released data from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement show that, following changes in enforcement policies and administration officials, federal immigration authorities have made significantly fewer arrests and deportations during the first four months of 2021 than during comparable periods of former President Trump’s troubled time in office.
“ICE’s arrests fell by about two-thirds in March  compared with the monthly tallies toward the end of the Trump administration, when arrests had already slowed amid the continuing pandemic,” reported Michelle Hackman of The Wall Street Journal. “Deportations fell by nearly 50%. And ICE’s population of immigrants in detention — which peaked above 56,000 in 2019 — fell to 14,000 in March.”
Despite the drop in deportations, arrests at the U.S. Southern border have increased and are now at a 15-year high. Border Patrol agents reported the arrests of more than 170,000 migrants who were attempting to enter the U.S. illegally in March alone.
“The majority of those apprehended at the border are being immediately returned to Mexico, while children are transferred to a network of child shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services,” Hackman reported.
“The Biden administration’s current ICE guidelines direct immigration officers to target people who recently crossed the border illegally and weren’t immediately turned back by the Border Patrol, along with others deemed threats to national security or public safety,” she said. “Public-safety threats are defined as people who have committed aggravated felonies, a term used in immigration law that captures some of the most severe crimes, including murder, rape and human trafficking, but not some of the most frequent offenses for which immigrants are arrested, including driving under the influence.”
For individuals in the country who once lived in fear of ICE showing up at any point on their doorstep — as the Trump administration often threatened — the good news is that arrest requirements have tightened significantly. In order for anyone to be arrested outside of the aforementioned categories, officers must request preapproval from senior ICE officials in writing. They also must gather police reports and other documents in support of their case — a process made significantly more difficult in “sanctuary cities” where officials often refuse to release such documents.