Deportations ticked up in 2022 as the pressures of the pandemic receded, but there were new worrying trends as ICE ousted fewer convicted criminals and fewer gang members.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement blamed the ongoing chaos at the southern border for its difficulties, saying it has had to siphon resources away from its usual missions to deal with helping catch and release the unprecedented number of people surging into the country.
The agency revealed the numbers on Friday.
ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations division — the government’s deportation force — arrested 142,750 people in fiscal year 2022, almost double the roughly 74,000 from 2021. But arrests of those with criminal convictions fell slightly, to 36,322.
Most of the arrests stemmed from the border. But ICE’s own operations in the interior were similar, with convicted criminal arrests dipping a bit to 6,127.
Those numbers defy Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’s promise to nab more criminals.
ICE officials said the numbers underscore the agency’s evolution.
“ICE continues to disrupt transnational criminal organizations, remove threats to national security and public safety, uphold the integrity of U.S. immigration laws, and collaborate with its colleagues across government and law enforcement in pursuit of our shared mission to keep U.S. communities safe,” said Tae Johnson, ICE’s acting director.
The agency has been without a confirmed director for nearly six years, dating back to the end of the Obama administration. None of President Trump’s picks for the post was confirmed, and President Biden’s first pick withdrew this year.
ICE did increase its arrests and deportations of those with pending criminal charges — a category that ICE backers celebrate but its critics challenge, saying those targets should have been given a chance to go through the criminal judicial process.
Combined, ICE said its at-large arrests included 1,501 homicide charges or convictions. That’s roughly even with the 1,506 recorded in 2021.
Arrests of those with sex assault charges, robberies and kidnappings also remained relatively flat, though arrests for assaults rose from 19,549 in 2021 to 21,531 in fiscal year 2022.
The most frequent criminal category among ICE at-large administrative arrests was drugs, followed by criminal immigration cases and drunken-driving offenses.
Despite a growing national sanctuary movement that refuses to work with ICE, the agency ramped up its deportation requests to state and local police and corrections departments, placing nearly 79,000 “detainers” asking that migrants be turned over when the local departments were through with them.
That was up about 20% compared with 2021.
ICE did not say how many detainers were honored in 2022.
ICE has struggled for years, trapped between those who want to pour money into the agency and make a dent in the illegal immigrant population, and those who say illegal immigrants deserve leniency and want to see the agency abolished altogether.
The Biden administration tilts toward the latter position, having proposed significant cuts in ICE’s detention operations. Congress has rebuffed those requests, keeping the agency’s funding relatively flat.
That money, however, is not enough to tread water.
ICE reported that it now has nearly 4.8 million illegal immigrants on its non-detained docket, meaning they are out in communities. That’s up nearly 1.1 million in just a single year — a measure of growth from the border.
Roughly 1.2 million of those on the non-detained docket have been ordered removed by an immigration judge but have yet to comply. The others still have active cases.
ICE admitted it doesn’t know much about the actions of most of those it has released, saying it just doesn’t have the resources to keep an eye on them.
“With approximately 6,000 ERO officers spread across 25 field offices, ERO lacks sufficient resources to more closely monitor and provide robust case management services to this entire population,” the agency said in its report.
It said it tracks released migrants with some sort of supervision — usually a check-in requirement — for about a year and a half, but then takes them off the active rolls to make room for new people.
The deportation data shows just how much stress the border situation is creating in building the backlog.
All sides agree that if people can be deported, it will deter some future migrants from making the attempt. If unauthorized migrants succeed in gaining a foothold, meanwhile, it entices others.
Border authorities caught roughly 57,000 Haitians entering without permission in 2022. Of those, about 12,000 were ousted under Title 42, the border pandemic expulsion policy.
That leaves more than 44,000 Haitians who were put into regular immigration proceedings. But ICE reported deporting just 1,532 Haitians in 2022.
Roughly 64,000 Indian nationals were caught jumping the border, and about 5,000 were expelled under Title 42, leaving about 59,000 who were put into regular immigration proceedings in 2022. ICE deported just 276 Indians for the year.
For Cuba, border authorities nabbed about 225,000 border jumpers last year, and expelled about 4,900 of them under Title 42. That leaves about 220,000 who gained some sort of foothold. ICE reported deporting just 48 Cubans in 2022.
Mexico led the way with about 34,000 deportations total. El Salvador was second with 7,200, followed by Guatemala with 6,600 and Honduras with 6,300.
ICE reported deporting 12 people from Afghanistan, a country where the Taliban takeover has complicated removal efforts.