By at least one important measure, the immigration detention system run by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency closed the Obama era holding more people than ever before. During the 2016 fiscal year—the period from October 1, 2015 to September 30, 2016—ICE detained, on average, 34,376 people per day. See DHS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, Budget Overview, Fiscal Year 2018, Congressional Justification ICE-14. According to ICE, it paid, on average, $128.88 per bed per day. Id. Compared to the rest of Obama’s tenure, the average daily population is a slight uptick from FY 2012 when ICE detained 34,260 people on average daily. I have not seen FY 2017 data for ICE’s average daily population, though the agency reported to Congress that it was targeting the same number as in FY 2016. Id.
Examined over the course of the entire year, though, the Obama era ended in line with his presidency, but not at the top. In FY 2016, ICE detained 352,882 people. DHS, ICE Annual Flow Report 2016, at 2 (2016). Despite the Trump administration’s bombastic claims, the annual cumulative population count dropped the following year, fiscal year 2017, to 323,591. See ICE, Fiscal Year 2017 ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Report 11. FY 2017 was a transition year that began under the Obama administration, but ended under President Trump.
From the president on down, the Trump administration continues using inflammatory rhetoric to describe the dangers that migrants pose. At the same time, they continue describing their own achievements grandiosely. There seems little reason to expect either to change. Given that, it’s worthwhile to keep the Trump administration’s actual achievements in mind and in context.