Vehicles wait in line at the Mexico-Unites States border to leave Tijuana, Mexico, and enter the United States in March 2021. File Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI | License Photo
March 11 (UPI) -- Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers have shifted priorities under President Joe Biden's administration to focus on apprehending felons, leading to an overall decrease in overall arrests overall, but an increase in arresting of serious offenders.
ICE officials, in the agency's annual report for the 2021 fiscal year, said that its officers arrested 74,082 noncitizens, a 28% decrease from 2020.
However, the agency nearly doubled its arrest of noncitizens convicted of aggravated felonies, from 6,815 arrests in the prior fiscal year under the administration of former President Donald Trump to 12,025 arrests in 2021.
The changes in focus came after the Biden administration issued memos instructing ICE officers to prioritize the arrests of immigrants who recently crossed the border, as well as those who pose national security risks or who have been convicted of serious crimes.
As a part of the shift, ICE officers pivoted from arresting immigrants with clean records who have lived in the United States for years to focus on serious criminals.
Officers with ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations arrested an average of 1,034 aggravated felons per month from February through September 2021, according to a press release from the agency.
That marks a 53% increase over the monthly average during the final year of the former President Barack Obama's administration and a 51% increase over the monthly average during the Trump administration.
"During the same period in 2021, ERO removed an average of 937 aggravated felons per month, the highest level ever recorded and the greatest public safety impact since ICE began collecting detailed criminality data," ICE noted.
According to the agency, 46% of people who were deported from February to September 2021 were convicted of felonies or aggravated felonies, compared to 17% during the final year of the Obama administration and 18% during the Trump administration.
Those arrested had been associated with 1,506 homicide-related offenses, 3,415 sexual assaults, 19,549 assaults, 2,717 robberies, and 1,063 kidnappings.
In its report, the agency said a targeted operation led to the arrest of 495 noncitizen sex offenders, compared to 194 over the same period in 2020, a 255% increase. Those sex offenders, of whom 80% had victimized children, came 54 countries.
ICE also particularly touted the arrest and deportation of Friedrich Karl Berger, a 95-year-old Nazi concentration camp guard.
More than two-thirds of the 59,011 people deported by ICE in 2021 were classified as threats to either border security or to public safety, with 2,718 removed for ties to gangs and 34 designated as suspected or known terrorists.
ICE officials also noted that the agency played a significant role in assisting Customs and Border Protection officials at the border amid an influx of migrants early last year. The agency said it also "played a crucial role" in Title 42 expulsions, a CBP process rather than an ICE removal, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
ICE officials said Friday that the new Biden administration rules have "ushered in a new era at ICE," as the agency is "focusing on what we consider quality arrests -- the ones that are the most severe threats to our communities."