A border patrol agent stands near the border fence that divides the United States and Mexico at Border Field State Park in San Diego, California on December 10. Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 14 (UPI) -- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Friday there's been a 14 percent increase in deportations this year, but the figure trails the average under former President Barack Obama.
ICE said its Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) totaled 256,086 undocumented immigrants for the year, ending in September. The agency said 57 percent of those removed were convicted criminals and nearly 6,000 were classified as suspected gang members.
During the first six years of the Obama administration, ICE deportations averaged between 315,000 and 409,000 people per year, The Washington Examiner reported. In Obama's final two years, those numbers dropped to about 235,000 and 240,000, respectively.
ICE said its administrative arrests (158,581) were up 11 percent from 2017 and detentions (396,448) were up 22.5 percent.
"Administrative arrests are predicated on an alien lacking a legal basis to remain in the United States," the ICE report states. "While ERO makes every effort to arrest aliens who threaten public safety, no criminal action or conviction is required for ERO to act on an individual case. There is no category of alien exempt from immigration enforcement."
Ronald Vitiello, President Donald Trump's nominee to head ICE, told reporters Friday the agency saw a high surge of immigrants at the border toward to end of the calendar -- with more than 50,000 people taken into custody for trespassing, including 25,000 families in November.
Vitiello said ICE resources were stretched thin, and that could lead to the agency needing to release more people from detention. He added that in 2013, ICE under Obama had to release a large group of detainees because of budget restraints.
"We're worried that might happen to us again," Vitiello said in a report by the Washington Times.