United States arrests of illegal immigrants soared in the first year of president Donald Trump's administration while border crossings have plummeted, the Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday.
The new numbers, which offer the most complete snapshot yet of immigration enforcement under Trump, show that Border Patrol arrests plunged to a 45-year low in the fiscal year that ended September 30, with far fewer people being apprehended between official border crossings.
Border officers apprehended 310,531 people for being in the country illegally in fiscal 2017, a 25 percent decrease from the year before.
The U.S. government deported fewer illegal immigrants in 2017 than it did past year, even as it arrested far more people suspected of being in the United States illegally, according to Department of Homeland Security statistics released on Tuesday.
According to the data, Border Patrol agents have been increasingly aggressive with undocumented immigrants.
In February, former Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, who now serves as Trump's chief of staff, scrapped the Obama administration's policy of limiting deportations to people who pose a public safety threat, convicted criminals and those who have crossed the border recently, effectively making anyone in the country illegally vulnerable to apprehension.
CBP Acting Deputy Commissioner Ronald Vitiello said that the agency was now studying prototypes for the wall Trump has ordered for the almost 2,000-mile (3,200 kilometer) border with Mexico. During the fiscal year, which included the President Barack Obama administration's final months, border authorities stopped people travelling as families 104,997 times on the Mexican border and unaccompanied children 48,681 times. ICE says that the total number of removals nationwide was down 6 percent this year compared to last year, which the agency attributed "to the decline in border apprehensions". That's nearly a 24 percent drop from previous year. And the increase is 37 percent after Trump's inauguration compared to the same period the year before.
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Immigration advocates have raised concerns that ICE's new policies have led to indiscriminate arrests and targeting of communities.
Counting just from January when Trump became president, ICE said, arrests surged by 40 percent.
The comparison to previous year was not immediately known.
Pinto pushed back against Homan's narrative, saying that while fewer people may be dying during attempts to come to the USA illegally, people are instead dying in their home countries. "We're still arresting almost 1,000 people a day coming across the border", he said.
About 58 percent of Border Patrol arrests were people from countries other than Mexico - up from 54 percent from a year earlier - largely from Central America.
In past years, removals were the primary measurement of how well ICE was doing, but over the past year, the agency has provided more context on arrest numbers as well.
"Every person we arrest we know exactly who we're going to arrest and where we're going to arrest them", he said.