Arrests of illegal aliens are up 45% since January, according to the government’s figures. But in order to fulfill Trump’s promise to deport millions of illegal alien criminals, something will need to be done about overburdened immigration courts.
Deportations under Trump have actually fallen a bit, pointing to the difficulty the president is going to have in keeping his promise.
In January, the United States deported 9,913 criminals. After a slight uptick under Trump, expulsions sank to 9,600 criminals in June, according to statistics requested by The Washington Post.
Mostly, deportations under the Trump administration have remained lower than in past years under the Obama administration. In the first six months of the year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported 61,370 immigrants with criminal records, down from 70,603 in the same period last year.
Advocates on both sides of the immigration debate said they think that the Trump administration’s effort is still gathering steam and that ICE plans to expand deportations in the months ahead. Immigration arrests rose to 13,945 in June, 45 percent above January’s total.
“Deportations under Obama collapsed in the last few years, and turning that around isn’t just a question of snapping your fingers,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors stricter controls on immigration. “Six months from now, we might see something very different.”
During the election campaign, Trump vowed to target criminals for deportation and warned that they would be “going out fast.” Later, he suggested he would try to find a solution for the “terrific people,” such as those with clean records, but that has not materialized.
While people with criminal records account for three-fourths of the 75,000 immigration arrests this year, the fastest-growing target under Trump are immigrants without criminal records.
About 19,700 immigrants with no criminal records were arrested in the first half of the year, more than double the number in the same period last year. ICE has said that anyone in the United States illegally is subject to deportation, unlike under President Obama, who had said immigrants with long-standing ties to the United States and clean records were not a priority for deportation.
John Sandweg, an acting director of ICE under Obama, said the Trump administration’s approach is likely sabotaging the president’s attempts to deport criminals by funneling more noncriminal cases into the clogged immigration courts, where some 600,000 cases are pending.
“By focusing on noncriminal cases, you’re burning resources that would otherwise be dedicated to criminals,” he said. “There are only so many seats on the bus.”
The backlog of immigration court cases will not be brought down any time soon. The number of immigration judges is falling not rising, as many judges choose retirement rather than deal with the overwhelming workload. But help is on the way. Attorney General Sessions recently transferred several dozen judges to courts in high-traffic areas like Texas and California, while promising to hire up to 100 more.
That’s a good start, but we have to face the fact that the problem with illegal immigration was not created over a few months but rather a couple of decades. So it stands to reason it will take a concerted effort by successive presidents and Congresses to bring normalcy back to the system.