ICE is melting away in the Biden administration as Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers find themselves handcuffed by new rules designed to limit their activities.
The agency deported fewer than 3,000 illegal immigrants in April, a record low, The Washington Post reported.
Officers are currently averaging one arrest every two months.
“It’s a weird, frustrating time,” an ICE official told The Post.
“It feels like the administration doesn’t have our backs,” said the official, who is not authorized to speak to reporters and whose name was not used.
April’s 2,962 deportations marked a 20 percent decline from March, when 3,716 illegal immigrants were deported, according to The Post.
April’s record low also came in a month during which Customs and Border Protection data shows that in April, there were 162,000 encounters with illegal immigrants entering the country along the southern border, Fox News reported.
Between the 2017 and 2020 fiscal years, during the administration of former President Donald Trump, 935,346 illegal immigrants were deported, according to Forbes.
At the rate ICE is going, it would deport fewer than 55,000 illegal immigrants, putting it on track for the first year of under 100,000 deportations.
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Amid calls from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party to eliminate ICE, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said he wants to repurpose the agency.
“I really am focused on it becoming a premier national security and law enforcement agency,” Mayorkas told The Post. “I really want to elevate all of the other work [ICE] does and also ensure that its civil immigration work is well-focused in the service of the national security and public safety mission.”
ICE’s rules of engagement have changed with President Joe Biden in the Oval Office.
Deportation officers now need a written OK from a senior-level supervisor to detain anyone not deemed a national security threat or an aggravated felon who poses a public safety hazard.
Although ICE is supposed to have new official priorities this month, Mayorkas said that may not happen.
“What those changes will be, I am wrestling with right now, quite frankly,” he said.
Some progressive voices want ICE to be even further restricted.
“They have begun to do a lot of things to roll back the worst pieces of Trump administration policies, and their biggest accomplishment has been changing immigration enforcement in the interior to scale back who is being detained,” said Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington.
The Biden administration still is not “where we want them to be,” she said, demanding an end to all deportations.
Biden tried that when he took office, but a federal judge blocked his proposed 100-day freeze on most deportations.
Some Republicans said the current limits are rendering the agency essentially powerless.
“The Biden administration and its radical allies are effectively abolishing ICE through administrative acts,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said.
“ICE is a crucial component in our ability to enforce immigration, customs and trade laws in our country,” said Republican Rep. Charles J. Fleischmann of Tennessee. “To demand that the agency responsible for enforcing those national security laws be dismantled is unconscionable.”