Over half a million undocumented immigrants were arrested in 2016, but here’s why it’s not as bad as it sounds

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The Department of Homeland Security released end-of-year fiscal statistics for 2016, which reflect the Department’s immigration enforcement efforts prioritizing convicted criminals and threats to public safety, border security and national security.

The Department apprehended 530,250 undocumented immigrants nationwide and conducted a total of 450,954 removals and returns. The U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) reported 415,816 apprehensions nationwide. According to the report, although apprehensions by the USBP in FY 2016 increased from FY 2015, they remain a fraction of the number of apprehensions routinely observed from the 1980s through 2008.

The report also revealed that while the total number of apprehensions by the USBP nationwide between ports of entry increased in FY 2016 from FY 2015, USBP apprehensions remain lower than both FY 2014 and FY 2013.

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The demographics of illegal migration on the United States’ southern border have also changed significantly over the last 15 years. The report shows that far fewer Mexicans and single adults are attempting to cross the border without authorization, but more families and unaccompanied children are fleeing poverty and violence in Central America. In 2014, Central Americans — mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — apprehended on the southern border outnumbered Mexicans for the first time. In 2016, Central Americans again outnumbered Mexicans in apprehensions.

According to Fox News Insider, officials believe that undocumented immigrants from these countries were attempting to reach America before the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, who has threatened to enact stricter immigration policies.

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The DHS praised itself for continuing to “successfully implement the civil immigration enforcement priorities announced by Secretary [of Homeland Security Jeh] Johnson in November 2014.” It reported that In FY 2016, 98 percent of initial enforcement actions — a set of actions that includes USBP apprehensions, Office of Field Operations determinations of inadmissibility, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement administrative arrests — involved individuals classified within one of the three enforcement priority categories: 91 percent were among the top priority (Priority 1), which includes national security threats, individuals apprehended at the border while attempting to enter unlawfully, and the most serious categories of convicted criminals as well as gang members.

Johnson said in the report:

“In FY 2016, we continued to better focus our interior resources on removing individuals who may pose threats to public safety — specifically, convicted criminals and threats to national security. This prioritization is reflected in actual results. Overall, 98 percent of all initial immigration enforcement actions and over 99 percent of all removals and returns in FY 2016 aligned with the immigration enforcement priorities that I established in November 2014. Significantly, an increasing percentage of those deported from the interior were convicted of serious crimes – over 90 percent in 2016 as compared to 51 percent in 2009.”

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