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ICE: More arrests, fewer removals of illegal immigrants in Phoenix

FILE - In this March 6, 2015, file photo, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents enter an apartment complex looking for a specific undocumented immigrant convicted of a felony during an early morning operation in Dallas. The federal government provided Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, the most complete statistical snapshot of immigration enforcement under President Donald Trump, showing Border Patrol arrests plunged to a 45-year low while arrests by deportation officers soared. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

PHOENIX — Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials reported a rise Tuesday in arrests and a dip in removals of illegal immigrants in the Phoenix area.

In an email, ICE said it arrested 6,457 people in Phoenix during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Last year, the agency apprehended 5,370 people.

More than 4,100 of those arrested had previously been convicted of a crime.

ICE said it removed an additional 20,786 people from the city. That number was 21,984 last year.

More than 12,300 of the people removed from Phoenix had a criminal record.

“These results are proof of what the men and women of ICE can accomplish when they are empowered to fulfill their mission,” Thomas Hopman, ICE’s deputy director, said in a press release.

Nationwide, ICE removed 226,119 people and arrested an additional 143,470.

The agency said “interior removals” nationwide — people deported after being arrested away from the border — jumped 25 percent to 81,603 from 65,332 the previous year. They rose 37 percent since Trump’s inauguration compared to the same period a year earlier.

Hopman said the figures were proof his agency deserved the funding and support it received from President Donald Trump’s administration but that more was needed.

In other immigration news, the Border Patrol made 310,531 arrests last year, a decline of 25 percent from 415,816 a year earlier and the lowest level since 1971.

Reasons for the precipitous drop in border arrests are unclear but Trump’s election may have deterred people from trying. Trump has yet to get funding for the first installment of his proposed border wall with Mexico and the number of Border Patrol agents has declined as the government’s struggles to fill vacancies continues under his presidency.

About 58 percent of Border Patrol arrests were people from countries other than Mexico — up from 54 percent a year earlier — largely from Central America. Starting around 2011, large numbers from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras began entering the country in South Texas, which replaced Arizona as the busiest corridor for illegal crossings.

Ronald Vitiello, Customs and Border Protection’s acting deputy commissioner, said he was “very concerned” about increases in families and children crossing in recent months. During the fiscal year, which included the President Barack Obama administration’s final months, border authorities stopped people traveling as families 104,997 times on the Mexican border and unaccompanied children 48,681 times.

The numbers released by the government Tuesday show that deportation officers are taking Trump’s call for an immigration crackdown to heart, even without the funding increase that the president has sought from Congress for more hiring.

In February, then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly scrapped the previous administration’s instructions to limit deportations to public safety threats, convicted criminals and recent border crossers, effectively making anyone in the country illegally vulnerable.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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