Border arrests fall, deportations soar

WASHINGTON (AP) — Border Patrol arrests plunged to a 45-year low, but detentions by deportation officers away from the U.S.-Mexico border soared during President Donald Trump’s first months in office, as his efforts to overhaul the nation’s immigration system took effect.

In all, the Border Patrol made 310,531 arrests during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, a decline of 25 percent from a year earlier and the lowest level since 1971. But U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, whose officers pick up people for deportation, made 143,470 arrests, an increase of 25 percent. After Trump took office, ICE arrests surged 40 percent from the same period a year earlier.

“The president made it clear in his executive orders: There’s no population off the table,” Thomas Homan, ICE’s acting director, told reporters in Washington on Tuesday. “If you’re in this country illegally, we’re looking for you and we’re going to look to apprehend you.”

Overall, ICE said deportations totaled 226,119, a decline of 6 percent from the previous year, but that number masks a major shift away from the border. ICE often takes custody of people at the border before deporting them; the sharp drop in Border Patrol arrests means fewer people to remove.

ICE said “interior removals” — people deported after being arrested away from the border — jumped 25 percent to 81,603. And they were up 37 percent after Trump’s inauguration compared to the same period a year earlier.

In February, former Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, who now serves as Trump’s chief of staff, scrapped the Obama administration’s instructions to limit deportations to public safety threats, convicted criminals and recent border crossers, effectively making anyone in the country illegally vulnerable.