Acting director Thomas D. Homan of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has disclosed that there are nearly 1 million undocumented immigrants with final orders of removal but that his agents have only arrested 1 percent of that number.
On Feb. 20, Homan provided written answers on current ICE operations to the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa. The ICE director noted that his agents had only detained 1 percent of the nearly 1 million undocumented immigrants who had exhausted their court appeals against deportation, the Washington Examiner reports.
"As of May 21, 2016, there were 950,062 aliens with final orders of removal on [ICE]'s national docket," Homan said. "Of those aliens, 939,056 were on ICE's non-detained docket and 11,006 were on ICE's detained docket."
Homan's disclosure arrives after ICE performed a series of sweeps in immigrant communities, detaining 680 undocumented immigrants.
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Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the conservative nonprofit Center for Immigration Studies, attributes the fractional arrests of undocumented immigrants marked for deportation to sanctuary city policies.
"One reason is because so many criminal aliens have been released by sanctuary policies. If you look at the list of cities where these operations took place, many of them are sanctuaries," Vaughan said. "ICE has to do these kinds of operations when they are prevented from arresting criminal aliens while they are in jail."
During the Obama administration, ICE prioritized deportations of undocumented immigrants who had committed violent felonies and repeat misdemeanor offenses. Following President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration, the criteria for priority deportation has been significantly broadened.
On Feb. 14, Homan met with Congress to discuss the new ICE priorities. Following the meeting, Democratic lawmakers said that they were given the impression that all of the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants residing in the U.S. now face the prospect of deportation, NBC News reports.
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Democratic Rep. Linda Sanchez of California told reporters that Homan had informed her and her colleagues that they "can and should expect many more arrests and removals this year."
Sanchez added that the only thing restricting ICE from deporting undocumented immigrants en masse was a lack of resources.
On Feb. 19, Secretary John Kelly of the Department of Homeland Security signed a memo calling for the hiring of 10,000 new ICE officers and 5,000 new staff for the Customs and Border Protection agency to help facilitate more aggressive deportation efforts, Fox News reports.
Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California has asserted that she and her colleagues are not against deporting violent offenders but are alarmed by the Trump administration's efforts to empower ICE to remove undocumented immigrants who are otherwise law-abiding.
"[Obama] had a priority to deport dangerous criminals and we didn't disagree with that," Lofgren said, according to The Huffington Post. "Their further priority was if you found a dangerous criminal but the nanny lived next door and she was undocumented, you didn't pick up the nanny also."