National Security

ICE Held Fewer Than 37,000 Migrants In Detention At Close Of 2023 While More Than 6 Million Went Free, Report Shows

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Jennie Taer Investigative Reporter
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Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) held just under 37,000 migrants in detention at the end of fiscal year 2023 while allowing more than 6 million to roam the country, according to an agency report released Friday.

The more than 6 million individuals that aren’t detained either have final orders of removal or are awaiting adjudication of their cases, according to the report. Border Patrol recorded record levels of illegal crossings at the southern border in fiscal year 2023, when there were more than 2 million encounters, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) statistics.

While illegal immigration surges at the U.S.-Mexico border, ICE has had thousands of empty detention beds that taxpayers continue to pay to go unfilled, according to a previous Daily Caller News Foundation review of agency data.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JUNE 6: An ICE agent monitors hundreds of asylum seekers being processed upon entering the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building on June 6, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

The Biden administration’s ICE authorities carried out 142,580 deportations in fiscal year 2023, according to an agency report released Friday. (RELATED: Border Patrol Encounters Of Illegal Migrants Show Mass ‘Exodus’ From Home Countries)

“Detention is a deterrent,” former ICE Field Office Director John Fabbricatore, who is now an advisory board member at the National Immigration Center for Enforcement (NICE), told the DCNF. ”The Biden Administration currently controls 36,000 immigration detention beds, but they are not being filled to capacity. This number decreased from almost 55,000 during former President Trump’s term.”

“Detention is meant to discourage illegal entry into the country and is essential for maintaining law and order while protecting our borders. However, the Biden Administration’s policies have attracted around 6 million illegal immigrants to enter the country over the last three years,” Fabbricatore, who is currently running for Congress in Colorado’s sixth district, added.

Current agency officials have attributed the lack of detention to the Biden administration’s policies. One of the biggest hinderances for the officials has been an arbitrary set of limits on enforcement that the Biden administration has instructed ICE to follow.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas wrote in a September 2021 agency memo that “the fact an individual is a removable noncitizen therefore should not alone be the basis of an enforcement action against them.”

“This administration is purposely directing ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations to prioritize non-detained and Alternatives to Detention programs,” an ICE official, who requested anonymity because they’re not authorized to speak publicly, told the DCNF, referring to migrants who are released into the country and tracked using monitoring technology.

Still, the agency maintains it is diligently working to counter national security threats.

“ICE continues to disrupt transnational criminal organizations, remove threats to national security and public safety, uphold the integrity of U.S. immigration laws, and collaborate with colleagues across government and law enforcement in pursuit of our mission to keep U.S. communities safe,” Deputy Director and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director Patrick J. Lechleitner said in a statement Friday.

“I am proud of the efforts of our more than 20,000-strong workforce who work every day to achieve their mission while also assisting homeland security and law enforcement partners with integrity, courage and excellence,” Lechleitner said.

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