(CNN) — Immigration arrests in the United States have plummeted under the presidency of Joe Biden compared to his predecessor, who expanded the concept of who was eligible to be detained, according to data from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). in English) published on friday.
Under the Biden administration, the Department of Homeland Security implemented a series of policy changes that marked a departure from the aggressive measures of the Trump administration. That included modifying the guidelines to focus arrests on national security, public safety and border security risks.
ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations made more than 74,000 administrative arrests — for immigration violations — in fiscal year 2021, according to agency data, a lower number than during the Trump administration when annual administrative arrests exceeded 100,000. ICE, under the previous administration, had given agents more freedom to make arrests.
Senior ICE officials on Friday emphasized the impact of the pandemic on operations, noting the difficulty of comparing the data to previous years.
“I can’t stress enough the impact that covid has had on the agency, really the last year and a half, but certainly [durante] this fiscal year,” a senior official said, pointing to the closures and the fact that other countries refused to accept deportation cases.
The fiscal year 2021 data covers the final months of the Trump administration and the beginning of the Biden era.
Of the total arrests made, 45,755 occurred after ICE changed its guidance last February under the Biden administration, newly released data shows. Nearly half of those arrests were of convicted felons, while 55% of those arrested were classified as “border security threats,” which includes people apprehended by the US Border Patrol.
The return to a priority system for arrests was one of several policy changes instituted under the Biden administration. Over the past year, ICE has also canceled contracts with two detention centers, halted long-term detention of families, discontinued mass immigration raids at workplaces, and began moving toward alternatives to detention, such as electronic bracelets at the ankle.
A senior ICE official told reporters Friday that “the focused approach produced measurable success,” including, for example, a doubling of aggravated felony arrests over the previous year.
Deportations also fell sharply in the first year of the Biden administration. ICE deported about 59,000 last year, up from 185,884 the year before.
Overseeing the structural changes is Acting ICE Director Tae Johnson, who remained at the helm of the agency during Ed Gonzalez’s lengthy confirmation process as ICE director.
This week, heto Gonzalez’s confirmation hit a snag after Senate Democrats dropped a vote to advance his nomination when an alleged internal grievance surfaced. The White House has said it still stands by Gonzalez, who called the allegations in the complaint false.
While immigrant advocates and Democratic lawmakers have welcomed the changes to ICE, they have criticized the continued use of private detention and access to Covid-19 vaccines for those in detention.
Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union also filed a nationwide class action lawsuit against ICE, alleging that the federal agency failed to provide booster shots against COVID-19 to medically vulnerable detainees.