WASHINGTON-Border crossings plunged to a 45-year low while arrests by deportation officers soared during President Donald Trump's first months in office, as his efforts to overhaul the nation's immigration system went into effect.
"ICE will no longer exempt any class of removable alien from potential enforcement activity", Thomas Homan, the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told reporters during a briefing Tuesday.
ICE said that in Colorado and Wyoming, 2,746 people were arrested and 2,535 were removed from the U.S.in the 2017 fiscal year, which ran from October 1 of last year through September 30 of this year. ICE often takes custody of people at the border before deporting them; the sharp drop in Border Patrol arrests means fewer people to remove.
TPS is an immigration program which allows people from countries recovering from disaster - mainly Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Haiti - to live and work in the US legally. That was down 23.7 percent from the previous year.
In February, former Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, who now serves as Trump's chief of staff, scrapped the Obama administration's policy of limiting deportations to people who pose a public safety threat, convicted criminals and those who have crossed the border recently, effectively making anyone in the country illegally vulnerable to apprehension.
"That's a good thing", said Ronald Vitiello, the acting deputy commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.
The new numbers, which include the last months of the Obama administration, provide new ammunition to Trump critics who question the need to spend billions of dollars on a border wall if crossings are already dropping.
More than half of those detained came from Central American countries, said ICE.
However, non-criminal arrests have risen at a faster rate, which rose more than fifty percent compared to previous year.
But ICE also took into account in a press release announcing the numbers that there was a 40 percent jump in removals since President Donald Trump took office on January 20 when compared to the previous fiscal year.
There is a backlog that is being cleared out, including people that have received a final order or removal from an immigration judge, according to ICE officials.
During the 2015 fiscal year, ICE arrested 2,351 people in Colorado and Wyoming and removed 1,156 people.
The comparison to past year was not immediately known.
One reason for the decrease in deportations was that fewer people appeared to be trying to cross US borders illegally.
Overall ICE deportations, known as removals, were down around 6 percent compared to a year ago, but ICE attributed that to the dramatically lower number of illegal border crossings.
Looking forward, Homan said, the public can expect more workforce enforcement, as well as investigations into people who stay in the US after their visas expire.
Border Patrol, which oversees the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada, said it had arrested 310,531 people nationwide - a decrease of about 25% in total arrests.