DHS: Immigration Arrests Inside the U.S. Spiked While Border Crossings Dropped to Record Lows

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has publicly released immigration enforcement data for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017, which shows that apprehensions at the border are at their lowest levels in over 45 years, while arrests in the interior of the country have increased. The data for FY 2017 covers the final four months of the Obama administration and the first eight months of the Trump administration (October 1 2016 through September 30 2017).

As it relates to border security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which is housed within DHS, announced that CBP had apprehended 310,531 individuals trying to enter the country without authorization this past FY, which was a significant 23.7 percent decrease from FY 2016. Apprehensions conducted at the border are used as proxy for determining whether migration flows are up or down.

Thus while the number of apprehensions along the border are declining, this is not likely due to the administration’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and calls for a border wall. Rather, the decline is simply a continuation of historically low levels not seen since the early 1970s.

This year also follows the more recent trend of more Central American nationals than Mexican nationals arriving at our Southern border—partly due to the well-documented phenomenon of unaccompanied children and families fleeing the endemic levels of violence. This is the third time in four years that more Central Americans than Mexicans were apprehended at the border.

Separately, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a component of DHS, announced the agency had deported 226,119 people in total during FY 2017, a six percent decline compared to the previous fiscal year.

However, at the same time, ICE announced that the number of arrests and people removed from the interior of the country jumped by 25 and 30 percent respectively. Interior removals increased to 81,603 from 65,332 and ICE arrests increased to 143,470 from 110,104 the previous year. ICE largely credited President Trump’s executive order on immigration enforcement removal priorities for the change.

The new ICE priorities instruct agents to arrest any individual they encounter who does not have lawful immigration status. This has represented a radical departure in how limited enforcement resources get prioritized. While ICE alleges that they are only targeting those with a criminal history or deportation orders, they have also made clear that they will ask the immigration status of anyone in the course of an enforcement action and arrest nearly all those without proper documentation.

Thus far it appears ICE has followed through on those commitments. For comparison, in FY 2016, 15,353 people without criminal convictions were arrested by ICE. However, in FY 2017 that number more than doubled (or increased by 146 percent) to 37,734. Another indication of the Trump administration’s aggressive immigration enforcement approach is the number of at-large arrests conducted in the community (as opposed to a custodial setting), which jumped from 30,348 in FY 2016 to 40,066 in FY 2017.

The Trump administration hopes to increasingly scale up these actions. President Trump has requested that Congress fund additional record levels of immigration detention beds, more ICE officers, Border Patrol agents, and a border wall. A deal has not yet been reached on how much funding DHS should receive, but there is little doubt that additional funding is a major priority for the White House and immigration hardliners in Congress.

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