US deportations decline in 2017 but arrests of illegal immigrants rise

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Ten months after President Trump took office, the effect of his toughened immigration policies is showing up: The number of people caught at the southwest border has declined, while arrests of immigrants inside the country surged by 40%, statistics released Tuesday showed.

"Overall, removals are down because the border's under better control than it has been in 45 years", said Tom Homan, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

ICE removed approximately 226,000 people from the country in the 2017 fiscal year, which ended on September 30, down six percent from 2016.

Arrests of criminals were up 12 percent over the previous year.

Despite the overall decline in border arrests, the numbers have increased every month since May and many of those apprehended have been families and unaccompanied children.

Trump administration officials said despite the lower numbers of people arrested at the border, Trump's proposed wall along the U.S. -Mexico border is still needed.

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Illegal immigration, particularly along the southwest border, "declined sharply" from January 21 to April, said CBP Acting Deputy Commissioner Ronald D. Vitiello during a press conference Tuesday. During the fiscal year, which included the President Barack Obama administration's final months, border authorities stopped people travelling as families 104,997 times on the Mexican border and unaccompanied children 48,681 times.

Between Jan. 20 and September 30, Homan said, 8 percent of the approximately 111,000 people arrested by ICE were "collateral arrests", or people who were not the original focus of the agency.

During the same time period, the agency arrested more than 110,000 people, a 42 percent increase over the prior year.

According to ICE, non-criminal arrests are up because under the previous administration agents were mostly were prevented from making those arrests.

Immigration advocates have raised concerns that ICE's new policies have led to indiscriminate arrests and targeting of communities.

ICE said "interior removals" - people deported after being arrested away from the border - jumped 25 percent to 81,603.

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Homan used the announcement to rail against so-called sanctuary cities - municipalities that in some way decline to cooperate with ICE - saying they entice more illegal immigration.

One reason for the decrease in deportations was that fewer people appeared to be trying to cross USA borders illegally.

"I can speculate that it's just harder to cross the border and people are more resistant because of that", Vitiello said.

"People don't come to the United States to go on vacation", she said.

About 58 per cent of Border Patrol arrests were people from countries other than Mexico - up from 54 per cent a year earlier - largely from Central America.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who headed the president's opioid commission, said last week at a hearing with legislators in Baltimore that worldwide drug trafficking problems regarding synthetic painkillers fentanyl and carfentanil need to be addressed before they become even worse in the U.S.

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