Law enforcement agencies in California and Florida have seen large spikes in the number of immigration “detainer” orders by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, even as the overall number of refusals to honor those requests is increasing, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).

Federal requests to California to hold individuals suspected of violating immigration laws increased 42 percent in the first eight months of 2019. At the same time, the number of refusals by state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide has increased by 36.9 percent over the refusal level five years ago, according to TRAC figures.

TRAC added that the actual refusal figure may be higher. "ICE itself has conceded their records are unreliable and may greatly understate actual figures,” adding that the agency has not responded to Freedom of Information requests refused to release the number of times it has actually taken individuals into custody.

Other states with similar large increases in detainer orders include Florida (35.7 percent), New Jersey (32.4 percent), and New York (21.7 percent). The refusals of detainer requests reflect growing opposition to the White House immigration policy by so-called “sanctuary” cities in those states, TRAC said.

At the same time, the overall number of detainers issued by ICE has slipped six percent since last year. During the first eight months of Fiscal Year 2019, ICE issued an average 13,898 detainers each month, down from 14,775 monthly over the same period in 2018.

The geographical shift in figures may reflect the administration’s determination to apply pressure to states and cities that have been at the center of protests against the immigration crackdown. Five years ago, under the administration of President Barack Obama, the U.S. southwest border states represented the largest target of detainer orders, with the greatest number in Texas. But in 2019, Arizona alone received 35.6 percent fewer detainer orders than in 2018. Texas declined by 8 percent.

Meanwhile, in another report, TRAC said the backlog of immigration cases passed the one million mark this year. “The latest case-by-case court records through the end of August 2019 shows the court’s active backlog was 1,007,155,” TRAC said. An additional 322,535 cases are pending, but have not yet been placed on “active caseload rolls,” added TRAC.

The number of undocumented immigrants, however, is also declining. According to a June report by the Pew Research Center, that number had already dropped by 14 percent in 2017. Pew estimated there were 10.5 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. accounting for 3.2 percent of the nation’s population in that year—a decline largely attributed to the fall-off in numbers from Mexico.

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Updated: Mon, Oct 7th 2019 @ 11:40am EDT