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Judicial Watch, Inc. is a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, which promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law.

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Corruption Chronicles

ICE Detainers for Illegal Immigrants in Local Jails Drop Sharply Under Biden

The Biden administration is not just shattering records for admitting unprecedented numbers of illegal immigrants through the southern border, new government figures indicate it is also allowing more criminal aliens to be released into American communities after they get discharged from local jails for state crimes. The latest data shows that the number of immigrant detainers sent by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to local police has fallen sharply since Joe Biden became president, which means illegal aliens arrested for local offenses are set free instead of getting turned over to federal authorities for deportation.

Under a federal-local partnership known as 287(g), local law enforcement agencies are supposed to notify ICE of jail inmates in the country illegally so they can be deported. Caving into the demands of influential open border groups, the Biden administration has drastically diminished the measure. Additionally, an increasing number of law enforcement agencies in cities and counties around the nation do not cooperate with the feds under sanctuary policies. Now it appears that local compliance is becoming less relevant because ICE, which operates under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is trending towards not filing detainers at all. A new report issued by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a nonpartisan data research center dedicated to studying the inner workings of the federal government, reveals that immigrant detainers sent to local law enforcement agencies declined considerably at the start of the Biden administration.

To put things in perspective, researchers disclose that monthly detainer usage during the Trump administration climbed above 15,000 for a three-month period in 2018, though the monthly average was typically between 13,000 and 14,000. “It fell sharply once President Biden assumed office, falling to 2,200 by March of 2021,” the TRAC report states, adding that the figure has increased slightly since then to 3,782 during September 2021. Although ICE issued a lot more detainers during the Trump administration, the report notes they still exceeded the number of individuals the agency actually took into custody. This is likely due to uncooperative local authorities in sanctuary cities and counties nationwide. Nevertheless, the detainers were issued by ICE and “the Biden administration marked an abrupt change” in the practice, TRAC found. “Between March and September 2021, not only did the use of detainers fall dramatically, but their numbers are now running below the total number of ICE interior arrests from all sources,” according to the report.

The increasingly powerful open borders movement is undoubtedly fueling the demise of the DHS agency’s detainer program, which is critical to protect American communities. Many groups—including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Southern Poverty Law Center and National Immigrant Justice Center—have demanded the complete eradication of 287(g), claiming that it amounts to racial profiling and empowers sheriffs with records of racism, anti-immigrant hate and civil rights violations. In a recent letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, a coalition of immigrant rights organizations write that 287(g) is a failed policy that needs to be rescinded. The history of the federal-local partnership shows that it has encouraged “illicit forms of racial profiling and stereotyping,” the coalition asserts in its letter, which was sent to Mayorkas just a few days ago. “In states like Texas and Florida, 287(g) agreements have become harmful tools of law enforcement regimes that intentionally target immigrants, as well as potent political symbols for rightwing idealogues seeking to provoke white supremacist sentiment and foment anti-immigrant animus,” the letter reads.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) has actually sued ICE over its use of detainers in Las Vegas, claiming that it violates the constitutional rights of immigrants. Las Vegas is also named in the complaint, which was filed on behalf of an illegal immigrant arrested for a traffic violation. Local authorities kept the migrant in custody after she served her 10-day sentence because ICE had issued a detainer. “Las Vegas is one of the most diverse cities in the state with one of the highest per capita immigrant populations in the country,” according to the lawsuit. “Local families are put at risk every day due to Defendants’ collusion with ICE. Defendants’ policy and practice not only violate individuals’ rights, they also undermine community safety and waste local public safety resources.”


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