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ICE arrested significantly fewer illegal immigrants due to COVID-19

Kaylee Greenlee, DCNF

Officials arrested 30% fewer individuals in 2020 than they did last year, in part because of COVID-19, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Wednesday.

ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations officials made 103,603 arrests this year and deported 185,884 individuals, according to ICE. Around 90% of the aliens who were arrested had criminal convictions or charges, and 92% of those deported had prior or pending criminal charges.

“The men and women who represent ICE have risen to the challenges presented this fiscal year, including the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest,” Acting ICE Director Tony Pham said in a statement.

“A prime example of our agility as an agency as a direct operational pivot to COVID-19 was our ability to return more than 1,000 U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who were stranded abroad as airports began to shut down because of the pandemic,” Pham added.

ICE assembled a team of medical professionals and disease specialists to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in detention centers, according to ICE. The team reduced the population of detainees and aimed to keep the population below 70%.

ICE spent over $315 million on medical, dental and public health services for 99,670 detainees, according to ICE.

“This is but one example of ICE’s nimble efforts to complete our mission, serve our country and safeguard the homeland and her citizens,” Pham said in a statement.

“The cumulative efforts made this year are a tribute to our exemplary workforce, who, despite professional and personal challenges presented by the pandemic, have remained committed to their sworn duty to protecting the interests of the United States and her people,” Pham added.

Even with enhanced precautions, the positive case rates among ICE detainees were around 13 times higher than the general population from April to August, USA Today reported. The spread of COVID-19 in detention centers may be worse due to inadequate data and testing within the facilities.

“We have an incomplete picture of what’s happening with testing,” Harvard Medical Student Parsa Erfani said, USA Today reported. “(But) it’s hard to stand by and just look the other way.”

Among the illegal aliens arrested, there were criminal charges or convictions for more than 1,800 homicide offenses, over 37,000 assault offenses, and over 10,000 sexual assault or sex offenses, according to ICE.

ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrested nearly 32,000 criminal violators, including 3,671 gang-related criminal arrests, according to ICE. HSI rescued just over 1,000 child exploitation victims and 418 human trafficking victims.

HSI seized over 1.4 million pounds of narcotics and confiscated nearly 7,000 weapons, according to ICE.

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