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The White House reportedly pushed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to deport more illegal immigrants amid increased political pressure over the border crisis — but so far the Department of Homeland Security hasn’t taken a more aggressive approach.
The Biden administration has been staring down an enormous crisis at the southern border, with approximately 200,000 migrant encounters each month for the past five months. There have been more than two million migrant encounters this fiscal year alone.
The administration has come under fire from Republicans for its rolling back of Trump-era border policies, including a narrowed scope for ICE arrests and deportations.
In FY 21, ICE arrested 74,082 noncitizens and deported 59,011 — down from 103,603 arrests and 185,884 removals in FY 20 and 143,099 arrests and 267,258 deportations in FY 19.
June 2, 2022: ICE agents conduct an enforcement operation in the U.S. interior. ((Immigration and Customs Enforcement))
The L.A. Times reported Friday that, with the increasing political pressure to be tougher on immigration, White House officials this year pushed ICE to deport more illegal immigrants under a “detained docket” that focuses on those who have recently crossed as part of a family unit.
The Times reported that about 60,000 have entered the docket since it was launched in May 2021, but just 150 have been deported through July. In March, Department of Homeland Security officials reportedly outlined options to deport more illegal immigrants under the program — including detaining them in hotels, 48-hour deportations and fining those who did not leave.
But an internal DHS document obtained by the outlet noted poor optics of deporting families, and never increased its deportations — although sources told the Times the pressure remains from the White House.
“Picking up a kicking and screaming child while mom and/or dad are restrained and ushered to the transport vehicle will not improve public perception of ICE or views around immigration enforcement,” the document said.
A White House spokesperson, in response to a query about the report, told Fox News Digital that the administration is “committed to enforcing our immigration laws in a safe, orderly, and humane way.”
“This includes working to process asylum claims expeditiously, granting relief where it is merited, and removing those found not to have a legal basis to remain in the United States,” the spokesperson said.
The Biden administration has focused its efforts on restoring legal asylum pathways that it says were shut down by the Trump administration and by targeting “root causes” of the migrant crisis like poverty, corruption and violence in Central America. It has recently touted its efforts to crack down on smuggling.
But its moves to end the Remain-in-Mexico policy, stop most border wall construction and restrict ICE’s deportation priorities have led to Republicans blaming the Biden administration for the dramatic surge in migrants that has exploded under its watch.
Last year the administration first attempted to place a 100-day moratorium on all deportations, but was blocked by court order. It later implemented narrowed guidelines which limited ICE agents to three categories of illegal immigrant: recent border crossers, public safety threats and national security threats.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in January that the administration had “fundamentally changed immigration enforcement in the interior.”
“For the first time ever, our policy explicitly states that a non-citizen’s unlawful presence in the United States will not, by itself, be a basis for the initiation of an enforcement action,” he said in an interview with CBS.
However, the guidelines were blocked in June by a court order in response to a lawsuit from Republican states. DHS said it will abide by the court’s ruling as it appeals it, and ICE would make enforcement decisions “on a case-by-case basis in a professional and responsible manner, informed by their experience as law enforcement officials and in a way that best protects against the greatest threats to the homeland.”
Adam Shaw is a politics reporter for Fox News Digital, with a focus on immigration. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AdamShawNY