At a press conference in Dallas last week, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director Matthew Albence discussed the current state of border security and how Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) fared in Fiscal Year 2019 compared to previous years.
As one of three agencies within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) responsible for enforcing U.S. immigration laws, the ERO arm of ICE specifically aims to identify, arrest, and remove individuals who pose potential threats to national security, public safety, and/or violate U.S. immigration laws.
Through intelligence-driven enforcement action and collaboration with local law enforcement across the country, ERO’s activities include interior enforcement, detention, transportation, and removals among other duties.
While most ERO arrests are made for civil violations of U.S. immigration laws, ICE works with state and local law enforcement agencies to assess criminal activity and identify individuals subject to removal following their arrest.
Despite the fact that FY 2019 saw an increase of nearly 70 percent in the number of apprehensions and inadmissible entries reported by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), only 143,099 administrative arrests were made by ICE, reflecting a decrease of nearly 10 percent compared to last year.
Additionally, arrests of convicted criminal illegal aliens who still remain unapprehended decreased by 12 percent, and of those who were arrested, more than 86 percent were found to have prior criminal convictions or pending criminal charges against them.
Director Albence attributed the lower numbers to the “crisis at the border,” which according to the agency, is fostering the need “to redirect resources to combat this unprecedented surge of illegal activity” and subsequently, led to the reassignment of nearly 350 ERO officers.
When looking at the number of removals reported in FY 2019, the agency reported 267,258 removals, reflecting an increase compared to the approximately 256,000 reported in FY 2018.
With more than 127,000 reported removals, Mexico topped the list of removal statistics by country of citizenship followed by Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
Moreover, of those removed, 85 percent reportedly spent previous time in ICE detention, and 91 percent were found to have previous criminal convictions or pending charges.
In addition to administrative arrests and removals, the agency reported issuing 165,487 detainers, reflecting a decrease of 7 percent compared to FY 2018.
Detainers are requests made by ICE to local law enforcement agencies for notifications about individuals subject to removal before the individuals in question are released from local custody.
In so-called “sanctuary cities,” however, these detainers are routinely ignored by local elected officials who oppose ICE and the enforcement of federal immigration laws.
By being notified of releases before they happen, federal law enforcement agencies like ICE argue that if they are notified of pending releases ahead of time, they are more readily able to reduce potential risks to the community by assuming custody before the individual in question has an opportunity to re-offend.
The FY 2019 ERO reports cite reduced cooperation with local law jurisdictions as a main driver for the decrease in detainers issued in 2019 versus 2018.
At 16,900 arrests made last year, the Dallas field office, where Director Albence announced the FY 2019 statistics, reported the largest number of ICE arrests across the country.
Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.