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U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), security contractors frisk Honduran immigration detainees deporting them on a flight to San Pedro Sula, Honduras on February 28, 2013 in Mesa, Arizona.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

by RACHEL STOLTZFOOS

Obama’s chief immigration officer will testify this week before Congress about the sharp drop in deportations of illegal immigrants in recent years.

Sarah Saldaña, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is expected to attribute the plummeting numbers to the surge of children at the border and uncooperative local and foreign governments.

Only 102,000 criminal illegal immigrants identified and apprehended by ICE were deported in Fiscal Year 2014, which is an 18 percent drop, according to a statement announcing the hearing. And the number of arrests of criminal illegal immigrants is down by 35 percent from this time last year. (RELATED: Obama’s Deputies Deported Only 0.2 Percent Of 11.7 Million Illegals In 2013)

Almost 800 personnel and other resources were reallocated last year to deal with the huge influx of Central American children crossing the border, she says in prepared testimony obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation. The agency transferred nearly 60,000 children to DHS custody, and had to build three new family detention centers, according to immigration law, to detain families apprehended at the border.

Some of those resources were taken from a program that disrupts smugglers by apprehending illegals at one part of the Mexican border and deporting them at a different part of the border. As a result, that program suffered, Saldana will testify.

Adding to the draw on resources posed by the surge is the difficulty of deporting illegal immigrants to countries other than Mexico. It’s more expensive and requires the cooperation of foreign countries, who often fail to provide the necessary travel documents. And in some cases, ICE is forced to release those illegal immigrants who aren’t given documents.

Saldana will also discuss the problem posed by cities who refuse to cooperate with ICE. These so-called “sanctuary” cities choose to release convicted illegal immigrants when their jail or prison sentence ends, rather than turn them over to the custody of ICE for deportation as requested.

“There are more than 200 jurisdictions, including some of the largest in the country,” her prepared statement asserts. From January 2014 to March 2015, cities ignored 15,000 of these requests from ICE, according to the Judiciary Committee statement.

“While the reasons for this may vary … in certain circumstances we believe such a lack of cooperation may increase the risk that dangerous criminals are returned to the streets, putting the public and our officers at greater risk,” Saldana’s statement says.

Her agency itself released more than 65,000 criminal illegal aliens in 2013 and 2014 in compliance with immigration law, and to ensure detention space for other efforts. (RELATED: Obama Deputies Free 30,682 Foreign Criminals)

“Over the past six years, President Obama has steadily dismantled the interior enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws,” committee chairman Bob Goodlatte said in a statement Monday. “Under the Obama Administration’s watch, the apprehension, detention, and removal of unlawful and criminal aliens has dramatically declined.”

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