OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments in a closely-watched immigration case that could set a major precedent.
The Biden administration was questioned over its assumed authority to decide which people in the country illegally they can deport first. A pair of Republican attorneys general from Texas and Louisiana argued that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is violating federal immigration laws in doing so.
The nation’s highest court is considering a trio of issues distinct to the case and while it’s unclear which way the justices might swing, some did appear to chastise the Biden administration’s arguments.
“At the heart of the dispute is a September 2021 memo from Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that laid out priorities for the arrest, detention, and deportation of certain non-citizens, reversing efforts by former President Donald Trump to increase deportations,” CNN reported in February. “Several of the conservative justices on Tuesday seemed ready to rule in favor of the states on a major threshold issue: whether Texas and Louisiana had the legal right to bring the challenge in the first place.”
In addressing whether the DHS guidelines were in conflict with two provisions of federal law, Justices John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Brett Kavanaugh cited that the law does note some immigrants “shall” be taken into custody or removed from the country, which appeared to suggest they were skeptical of the Biden administration’s assumed discretion.
“Shall means shall,” Roberts said. “Shouldn’t we just say what we think the law is,” he added while suggesting it ought to be left to other branches to “sort that out.”
The case comes as the Biden administration has come under heavy fire for its lax immigration policies that have created what many have called a “crisis” on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Earlier this week, a new report revealed the number of convicted criminal illegal immigrants deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement has dropped significantly under Biden.
New data reveals that ICE deported 150,000 in the fiscal year 2019 — under President Trump — but now is aiming to deport less than 30,000 a year.
Fox News reported:
In fiscal 2020, the last full year of the Trump administration, the agency aimed to deport 151,000 convicted criminal illegal immigrants and deported just over 100,000. In fiscal 2021, the target was 97,440 and just 39,149 were removed. By 2022, the first full fiscal year of the Biden administration, the target had dropped to 91,500 and just over 38,000 had been deported.
The agency has now lowered the targets for fiscal 2023 and 2024 to just 29,393 deportations for each year.
In an explanatory note, ICE said it is taking “every action possible to reduce factors that detract from removal performance, including constant efforts to obtain increased levels of cooperation from foreign countries and increasing the frequency of transport for detainees where possible.”
“However, it is important to note that significantly low removal numbers are more the result of environmental factors and policy environment than operational performance,” the statement continued, claiming criminal removals dipped because of COVID-19 but are now trending upward in the final quarter of fiscal 2023.
Fox News added:
The new policies coincided with a sharp decrease in deportations, although arrests dropped but then increased. The agency attributed the fluctuation to ICE resources being diverted to assist Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the besieged southern border.
The continued targeting of fewer than 30,000 criminal illegal immigrants, down from targets of around 150,000 during the Trump administration, is likely only to fuel criticism from immigration hawks over the Biden administration’s policies.
“Under the Biden administration, immigration enforcement has taken a back seat to open borders policymaking, and this offensive FY24 budget is yet another example,” Joe Edlow, a former senior DHS official during the Trump administration, told Fox News Digital.
“The stark contrast of removal process target numbers (and meeting or exceeding them) when compared to the Trump administration makes it clear that public safety doesn’t factor into Biden’s radical immigration agenda. With over 400,000 convicted criminal aliens in the non-detained docket, why is the agency charged with enforcing immigration laws hoping to remove less than 30,000 of them?” he said. “It is time for congressional appropriators to make sure ICE enforces the law and restores a semblance of integrity to interior enforcement.”