Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has released increasing numbers of illegal immigrants into communities since January -- an indicator of both narrowed enforcement priorities and recently-arrived migrants coming into ICE custody via Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Between October and January, ICE was releasing between 2,500 and 3,600 immigrants a month. In February, that increased to 4,782 and increased again in March to 11,888 – and then in April to 12,726.
The vast majority of those released were done so under an order of recognizance, meaning they are released and given paperwork for a court hearing. At the moment, non-detained court cases are not proceeding until July. Others were bonded out, paroled or given an order of supervision. Of those released on an order of recognizance, 1,695 were convicted criminals or had pending criminal charges – a number lower than the 2,603 released between November and January.
It is unclear how many were recent migrants transferred into ICE custody from CBP and how many were apprehended in the interior and then released.
"We continue to use the civil immigration enforcement priorities to focus our resources on threats to national security, border security and public safety," an ICE spokesperson told Fox News. "ICE will continue to carry out the duties of enforcing the laws of the United States to further the security and safety of our communities."
The Biden administration initially tried to impose a 100-day moratorium on deportations, but it has since stopped that effort after a lawsuit by the state of Texas. Instead, it has issued interim guidance that dramatically narrows enforcement priorities for the agency.
ICE is now focused on three categories of immigrants: those who pose a threat to national security; those who have crossed the border since Nov. 1, and those who committed "aggravated felonies."
It has led to a dramatic reduction in both arrests and deportation, something ICE says allows it to focus more on criminals and national security threats -- but critics have accused the administration of shirking its responsibilities to enforce the border and enforce U.S. immigration law.
A number of Republican states have sued over the guidance, arguing that it is illegal and will result in the release of criminals into their communities.
The numbers released by ICE are lower than the number of migrants released by CBP -- which has released more than 61,000 migrants into the U.S. CBP numbers show that it has also transferred more than 70,000 migrants to ICE and Health and Human Services -- which deals primarily with unaccompanied children.