As President Trump Calls For Mass ICE Raids, Deportations Are On The Decline In The Mountain West

ICE GEO Aurora
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement processing facility in Aurora run by private contractor GEO, on Monday July 1, 2019.

While rhetoric from Washington related to border security and immigration enforcement remains heated, there are small signs in Colorado and Wyoming that the Trump administration's deportation push may — at least temporarily — be running out of steam in this part of the Rocky Mountain West.

Deportations of undocumented immigrants from Colorado and Wyoming fell by 8.5 percent between the first quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019 from a total of 809 for the three months in 2018 to 740 this year.

The drop in "removals" was also accompanied by a 7.5 percent drop in the number of undocumented immigrants arrested by immigration officials in Colorado and Wyoming in the first three months of the year. 

The sample size is too small to draw any conclusions about whether this is short-term statistical noise or a signal of a reduction in deportation proceedings locally, though there are signs that it is more likely the former. The new numbers have been released in the middle of a pause in a Trump administration plan to begin mass deportations of undocumented families, and, nationally, the number of removals climbed in the federal fiscal years of 2017 and 2018. We are now midway through the 2019 fiscal year.

"The enforcement statistics from January-March 2019 illustrate that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is committed to arresting and removing unlawfully present aliens, with criminal histories, who threaten public safety and endanger immigrant communities," said Immigration and Customs Enforcement Executive Associate Director Nathalie R. Asher in a release touting an increase in removals in each month through March of 2019. "During this time period (Jan. - March, 2019), more than 85 percent of aliens arrested by ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations officers, and more than 91 percent of aliens removed from the interior of the United States, had received criminal convictions or pending criminal charges."

Trump previously announced that mass raids by ICE, possibly including deportations of families, would begin in late June. He then agreed to pause the plan to give Congress time to pass legislation rewriting asylum laws that currently allow immigrants to remain in the U.S. while their claims are adjudicated.

Congress did not take up legislation addressing asylum laws before leaving Washington for the 4th of July recess.

Last week, speaking to reporters at the G-20 summit, Trump reiterated to his previous position, declaring that raids would begin "sometime after July 4th."

"Unless we do something pretty miraculous," Trump said.

Denver is among the cities where the raids were scheduled before Trump announced a delay, but officials locally have said they were unaware of any ICE plans and would not assist in a deportation roundup.