By Paul Bedard
Despite media reports of a massive crackdown by President Trump on illegal immigrants, just a tiny percentage of the nearly 1 million on the government’s deportation list have been arrested, according to statistics provided to Congress.
The 680 seized in recent sweeps by U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement agents represent just .07 percent of the 950,062 with deportation orders as of May 21, 2016.
Responses to questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee, provided by Thomas D. Homan, currently the acting ICE director, revealed the struggle the agency faces as it moves to deport illegals, many with criminal records and slapped with “final orders of removal” after exhausting their court appeals.
He said that ICE has custody of just 11,006, or 1 percent, of the 950,062 ordered deported.
“As of May 21, 2016, there were 950,062 aliens with final orders of removal on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) national docket. Of those aliens, 939,056 were on ICE’s non-detained docket and 11,006 were on ICE’s detained docket,” said Homan’s answer to questions from Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley.
As it moves to find those not detained, ICE is beefing up its force, hiring up to 15,000.
There are an estimated 3 million illegal immigrants with criminal records in addition to their illegal status and the administration has said it will make them a priority for removal. The numbers in the ICE answers could have adjusted but deporting criminal illegals was not a priority in the last months of the Obama administration, according to experts.
Immigration experts said that sanctuary cities are mostly to blame for the huge number of illegal immigrants with deportation orders who are not in custody.
“The question I think people should be asking is, ‘Why are there so many criminal aliens who are at large?'” said Jessica M. Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies.
“Why does ICE have to take to the streets to find these people? 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. ICE has to do these kinds of operations when they are prevented from arresting criminal aliens while they are in jail,” she added.
She explained that those slated for removal from the United States are often simply floating in cities, either not required to check in with authorities or ignoring that requirement.
In Homan’s answers to Grassley, he said that “Individuals on ICE’s non-detained docket with final orders of removal are released under conditions designed to ensure their compliance with their immigration obligations.”
Vaughan translated: “11,006 of the 950,062 aliens with final orders of removal (exhausted all appeals) were in detention. The rest were at large. The ‘conditions’ they mention usually means ‘own recognizance,’ or no conditions, or bond, no reporting requirements, or calling an automated phone line to check in, or wearing an ankle bracelet, or checking in with an ICE officer in person – in that order of frequency, as far as I know. In other words, most of these people were just in the wind.”