According to a new report released Tuesday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), 92 percent of illegal aliens arrested this year had “criminal convictions, pending criminal charges, were an immigration fugitive, or were an illegal reentrant.” In addition, arrests of members of the violent MS-13 narco-terrorist organization surged 83 percent. Under new management since the Trump administration began, ICE has seen huge enforcement improvement. “The most significant changes in immigration enforcement strategy can be found in the interior of the United States. The executive orders issued by President Trump in January 2017 strongly emphasized the role of interior enforcement in protecting national security and public safety, and upholding the rule of law,” said the report.

President Donald Trump has nominated the agency’s acting director, Thomas D. Homan, to become the full time director. He was formerly in charge of enforcement. In a hearing this summer before Congress, he said that his agency would not respect the protection afforded to criminal illegal aliens by self-proclaimed “sanctuary cities” such as San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. He said, “If you are in this country illegally, and you committed a crime by entering this country, you should be uncomfortable, you should should look over your shoulder, and you need to be worried.”

Homan has asked for an increase of personnel, especially Border Patrol and ICE agents, besides building a border wall.

According to the report, which covers the fiscal year that ended in October: 

ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) made 143,470 arrests and 226,119 removals.

From the start of the Trump administration through the end of the fiscal year, ERO made 110,568 arrests. In FY2016, it made 77,806 -- an increase of 40 percent. During that time, removals that resulted from an ICE arrest increased by 37 percent.

ICE continued to prioritize its resources to enhance public safety and border security, which is 92 percent (101,722) of aliens ICE administratively arrested between Jan. 20, 2017 and the end of FY2017, were removable aliens who had a criminal conviction or a pending criminal charge, were an ICE fugitive, or were an illegal re-entrant.

ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrested 796 MS-13 gang members and associates, compared to 434 in FY2016 – an 83 percent increase.

Overall, HSI made 4,818 criminal arrests related to gang activity and 892 administrative arrests as a result of gang investigations. Additionally, ERO administratively arrested 5,225 gang members and associates.

Jessica M. Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, wrote at the center’s website:

“The immigration enforcement numbers for Fiscal Year 2017 released today by the Trump administration show very good progress in restoring the integrity of our immigration system and reversing the disastrous policies of the previous administration. In particular, I am encouraged to see a 25 percent increase in interior removals, which had plunged to a 10-year low last year, and an increase in enforcement directed at criminals and fugitives – and particularly gang members.

“These numbers are especially commendable considering the festering problem of sanctuaries that are obstructing ICE for political reasons, at serious cost to public safety. The main area of concern is the continued sizable illegal influx of youths and families over the southern border, which is causing big problems for the communities where they are resettled, and will remain an enforcement headache for ICE for years to come.”

A statement by ICE noted that despite the success the agency had in 2017, “multiple challenges still remain in providing immigration officials with the tools needed to keep criminals off the streets, eliminate the pull factors for illegal immigration, and remove aliens who have violated our immigration laws from the country.” The statement said that the current administration’s priorities “would address these challenges by enhancing border security, implementing a merit-based immigration system, and closing loopholes that encourage illegal immigration.”

“We have clearly seen the successful results of the President’s commitment to supporting the frontline officers and agents of DHS as they enforce the law and secure our borders,” said Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke. “We have an obligation to uphold the integrity of our immigration system, but we must do more to step up and close loopholes to protect the American worker, our economy, and our communities.”

“These results are proof of what the men and women of ICE can accomplish when they are empowered to fulfill their mission,” said Homan. “We need to maintain this momentum by matching the dedication and drive of our personnel with the resources they need to perform at even higher levels.” He said that ICE must continue to target MS-13 and other gangs to stop them from rebuilding in the U.S. 

The report said that in fiscal year 2017, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recorded the lowest level of illegal cross-border migration on record, as measured by apprehensions along the border and inadmissible encounters at the U.S. ports of entry. However, in May CBP began to see a month-over-month increase in apprehensions and inadmissible cases along the Southwest border, most notably from children, either as part of a family unit or unaccompanied by their parent or legal guardian.

“CBP continues to be concerned about steady increase in the flow of unaccompanied children and family units from Central America, as transnational criminal organizations continue to exploit legal and policy loopholes to help illegal aliens gain entry and facilitate their release into the interior of the country,” ICE stated.

Trump’s executive orders that target transnational gangs such as MS-13 were credited by the agency with bringing about the arrest of 796 MS-13 gang members and associates, compared to 434 in FY2016 – an 83 percent increase. “Overall, HSI made 4,818 criminal arrests related to gang activity and 892 administrative arrests as a result of gang investigations. Additionally, ERO administratively arrested 5,225 gang members and associates.” The report said that in FY17, HSI conducted 32,958 total criminal arrests and seized $524 million in illicit currency and assets over the course of investigations into “human smuggling and trafficking, cybercrime, transnational gang activity, narcotics enforcement, human smuggling and other types of cross-border criminal activity.”



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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