ICE hits post-pandemic high for detaining illegal immigrants
The administration is now detaining 35,000 illegal immigrants, the most since President Biden took office, according to new data released Tuesday that shows Homeland Security increasingly turning to Trump-style get-tough measures to respond to the record border surge.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had 35,589 people in detention on Sept. 10, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse reported.
The last time the rate was that high was at the start of the pandemic. The COVID-19 outbreak caused ICE to empty its facilities as it sought to comply with court orders and social distancing guidelines.
Even as the pandemic waned, however, ICE had kept relatively low detention numbers, with only about 20,000 detainees in custody at the start of this year. As late as May, just before the official end of the pandemic emergency, the number was still roughly 21,000.
The months since then have seen ICE surge capacity.
The agency is funded for an average of 34,000 beds on any given day during the year, but since it was dramatically below capacity for most of the fiscal year, it has space to go well above that number now, as the fiscal year ends.
Migrants who are detained can usually be deported quickly — in a matter of weeks — if they lose their immigration cases.
Those who are released can take years to deport, and many simply disappear into the shadows and ignore deportation orders, figuring — usually correctly — that ICE won’t look for them.
TRAC monitors detention numbers through an ongoing Freedom of Information Act open-records request.
TRAC said the majority of those in custody were arrested at the border and transferred from the Border Patrol to ICE. Just 27% of the detainees were arrested by ICE in the interior of the country — a number that has held relatively flat.
That means the growth in detention is fueled by the chaos that’s erupted at the border under Mr. Biden.
All of those in ICE detention are single adults. The administration banned family detention when it took office in 2021.
That could explain the latest trend in illegal immigration at the border, where a record number of migrants traveling as families were arrested in August. Since families aren’t detained, bringing a child is seen as a shortcut to catch-and-release.
In addition to those in detention, TRAC said ICE is monitoring another 197,500 migrants through what it calls Alternatives to Detention — either a GPS monitor or a smartphone or smartwatch.
That’s still a tiny fraction of the 2.6 million migrants awaiting final decisions from the immigration courts.