An extreme drop in deportations has coincided with a nationwide crimewave
When Joe Biden became president, his administration issued a series of directives to immigration agents to prioritise the worst criminals for deportation, so as to focus resources on the greatest threats to public safety. The goal was to decrease the (relatively small) number of illegal immigrant non-criminals who are deported, while increasing deportations of criminals.
What’s happened instead is a collapse of immigration enforcement across the board.
Deportation data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request reveals that during the first five months of the Biden administration, deportations declined dramatically, not just from the same period in 2019, which was the last year of normal immigration enforcement, but even from the pandemic shutdown levels of 2020.
These deportations, known bureaucratically as “removals”, do not include people pushed back across the frontier by the Border Patrol. Instead, these are people taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), usually in the interior of the country.
The decline is breath-taking. During the same period in each of the three years (January 21 to July 9), removals halved from 186,000 in 2019 to 93,000 in 2020, before falling a further 80% this year to fewer than 19,000. That translates to a decline of 90% from 2019.
Nor was the Trump administration deporting an extraordinary number of people. The number of illegals deported in all of 2019 (about 267,000) was lower than all but two years of the Obama administration, mainly because of obstruction by states and localities with “sanctuary” policies preventing cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
But what about deportations of serious criminals? The good news is that, during the first five months of Biden’s first term, the percentage of deportees who’d been convicted of serious crimes went up, from 9% in 2019 to 32% in 2021. (Almost all the rest were also criminals, but convicted of less serious offences.) The bad news is that the overall number of deportations declined so dramatically that even the number of serious criminals among them dropped by two-thirds, to just 6,000 nationwide.
The number of illegal immigrants removed who’d been convicted of homicide or sexual assault dropped by half from 2019 to 2021 with robbery, down 65%; weapons charges down 70%; and burglary down 80%. This in the midst of an unprecedented crime wave.
Actually, it’s remarkable that even this many illegal immigrants were removed. The Biden administration has handcuffed ICE agents to an almost comical degree. My colleague Jessica Vaughan, who prepared the report on deportations, writes that in almost all cases:
And this is only one stage in the new, onerous process intended to prevent immigration agents from being able to take deportable illegal immigrants into custody.
It gets worse. A new policy on “protected” areas, near which immigration officers may not even question illegal immigrants or do surveillance, is so broad as to turn the whole country into a de facto sanctuary for illegal immigrants. Another colleague prepared a map of downtown Washington, D.C., from the White House west to Georgetown, shading in red the “protected” areas. Needless to say, virtually the entire map is red.
Immigrants, legal or illegal, aren’t uniquely prone to criminality. But, whatever its broader approach to immigration, any federal administration has an obligation to energetically pursue and remove those who are criminals. The Biden administration has intentionally reneged on that obligation.