There are two good pieces of news on border security. One is a policy shift and the second is the Border Patrol data.
First the policy change. One of the things John Kelly has going for him in immigration enforcement is that ICE is happy to arrest and deport illegals, but they have had their hand stayed for quite a while. While Obama actively encouraged illegals, no one can call George Bush a hardliner on enforcing immigration law. Most ICE management, the rank and file ICE agents and Border Patrol agents, and the relevant unions are in favor of what Kelly is doing. Many of the policy shifts have happened under the radar and are only now being revealed.
The head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit in charge of deportations has directed his officers to take action against all undocumented immigrants they may cross paths with, regardless of criminal histories. The guidance appears to go beyond the Trump administration’s publicly stated aims, and some advocates say may explain a marked increase in immigration arrests.
In a February memo, Matthew Albence, a career official who heads the Enforcement and Removal Operations division of ICE, informed his 5,700 deportation officers that, “effective immediately, ERO officers will take enforcement action against all removable aliens encountered in the course of their duties.”
The Trump administration, including Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, has been clear in promising to ramp up immigration enforcement, but has so far emphasized that its priority was deporting immigrants who posed a public safety threat. Indeed, Kelly, to whom Albence ultimately reports, had seemed to suggest a degree of discretion when he told the agencies under his command earlier this year that immigration officers “may” initiate enforcement actions against any undocumented person they encountered. That guidance was issued just a day before Albence sent the memo to his staff.
A spokesman with ICE said Albence’s directive did not represent a break with Kelly’s stated aims, and was consistent with current agency policies.
“The memo directly supports the directions handed down in the executive orders and mirrors the language ICE consistently uses to describe its enforcement posture,” the spokeswoman, Sarah Rodriguez, said in a statement. “As Secretary Kelly and Acting Director [of ICE] Homan have stated repeatedly, ICE prioritizes the arrest and removal of national security and public safety threats; however, no class or category of alien in the United States is exempt from arrest or removal.”
When you marry this with the end of the “catch and release” program you have a much more robust enforcement regime. ICE agents don’t have to have an underlying criminal offense to detain an illegal and process them for deportation.
Between February and May, the Trump administration arrested, on average, 108 undocumented immigrants a day with no criminal record, an uptick of some 150 percent from the same time period a year ago.
I’ve posted a couple of times on the steps the administration is taking to deter Central Americans, in particular, from attempting to enter the US illegally. This has resulted in a precipitous drop in arrests at the border which serves as a proxy for how many illegals are making an attempt at crossing the border.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) saw a nine percent increase in apprehensions and inadmissible persons at ports of entry along the Southwest Border in June.
However, these numbers represent a 53 percent decrease as compared to June of 2016, and year-to-date totals for FY 2017 are 19 percent lower than the same period in FY 2016.
While there was a small increase–2000 arrests–over May’s total, May experienced a 63% drop from the previous year and May is also a major month for border crossings. What we are seeing is that trend data is being rewritten as the way immigration law is being enforced has changed radically since January. Is the 15-18K arrests/month the new normal? Or can it go lower?
There is no way we are going to reduce the number of people attempting illegal border crossings to zero but what Homeland Security, with John Kelly at the helm, has clearly done is bring the border under control and it is working to eliminate the culture of managerial lawlessness that permeated the department under Obama.