Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced Friday that it has arrested 220 illegal immigrants in a nine-day enforcement operation with criminal convictions that include rape and murder.
ICE said its Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) had apprehended 220 “removable noncitizens” with convictions including domestic violence, sexual abuse, burglary, gun crimes, drug trafficking and driving under the influence. The arrests took place between March 4 and March 13.
Those arrested included a 64-year-old Mexican national convicted last year of sexual abuse of a victim under 13, a 37-year-old Mexican with a conviction for attempted murder, and a 65-year-old Mexican with convictions for second-degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon. Also arrested was a 49-year-old Mexican with convictions for battery and felony rape of spouse by force/fear.
Other illegal immigrants arrested included a 20-year-old Cuban with a conviction last year for second-degree murder, a 33-year-old Nicaraguan with a conviction of armed burglary, a 50-year-old El Salvadoran convicted of sexual abuse and sexual contact with a child under 11, and a 44-year-old Mexican convicted of sex crimes with a child under 11.
ICE said the operation shows how the agency is focused “on smart, effective immigration enforcement that protects the homeland through the arrest and removal of those who undermine the safety of our communities and integrity of federal immigration law.”
“Our teams weigh various factors during targeting and apprehension to ensure we are enforcing U.S. immigration laws humanely, effectively, and with the utmost professionalism,” ERO Executive Associate Director Corey Price said in a statement.
ICE’s ERO arrested 46,396 illegal immigrants with criminal histories last year. The agency said that those included 198,498 associated charges and convictions.
However, ICE’s footprint has been reduced under the Biden administration. The administration, after failing to put a moratorium on deportations, narrowed ICE priorities to recent border crossers, national security threats and public safety threats. Those guidelines have now been blocked by a federal judge.
A recent budget overview by DHS showed that ICE’s deportations of criminal illegal immigrants are being reduced.
In fiscal 2020, the last full year of the Trump administration, the agency aimed to deport 151,000 convicted criminal illegal immigrants, and deported just over 100,000. In fiscal 2021, the target was 97,440 and just 39,149 were removed. By 2022, the first full fiscal year of the Biden administration, the target had dropped to 91,500, and just over 38,000 had been deported.
The agency has now lowered the targets for fiscal 2023 and 2024 to just 29,393 deportations for each year.
In an explanatory note, ICE said it is taking “every action possible to reduce factors that detract from removal performance, including constant efforts to obtain increased levels of cooperation from foreign countries and increasing the frequency of transport for detainees where possible.”
The agency suggested that hiring more deportation officers and attorneys to improve docket management could help reduce “roadblocks and inefficiencies” before suggesting that policy changes by the Biden administration, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, have been responsible for the drop in numbers.
“However, it is important to note that significantly low removal numbers is more the result of environmental factors and policy environment than operational performance,” it said.
Meanwhile, ICE’s sister DHS agency – Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – announced on Friday that Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley Sector had arrested four gang members and a sex offender among the migrants they encountered this week. One of the men is a 41-year-old Mexican with a prior conviction for sexual abuse of a minor in Indiana, while agents in McAllen also arrested a Paisas, MS-13 and Wild Mexicans gang member from El Salvador, along with a Mexican with a prior conviction for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and manslaughter.
That comes just days after Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz told lawmakers that the southern border is not under operational control.