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A Decade of Rising Immigration Enforcement

With roughly 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States, some question whether the nation’s immigration laws are being seriously enforced. In truth, due to legal and policy changes in recent years, the immigration laws are enforced more strictly now than ever before. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has reported record numbers of removals during the Obama administration, especially of noncitizens with criminal convictions. Meanwhile, fewer noncitizens are trying to enter the country illegally, and those caught by the Border Patrol are now regularly charged with federal crimes. Together, these trends reflect a sweeping and punitive transformation in U.S. immigration enforcement.

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“Removals” & “Returns”

When noncitizens who violate the immigration laws are forced to leave the United States, their departure is classified as a “removal” or a “return.” (See the glossary for definitions of these terms.) DHS reported 391,953 “removals” during the 2011 fiscal year, slightly below the record set in 2009. Meanwhile, DHS reported 323,542 “returns” in 2011, the lowest number since 1970 {Figure 1}.

Figure 1: DHS “removals” & “returns” FY 2002-2011

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Published On: Tue, Jan 08, 2013 | Download File

Falling Through the Cracks

The Impact of Immigration Enforcement on Children Caught Up in the Child Welfare System

One of the many consequences of an aggressive immigration enforcement system is the separation of children, often U.S. citizens, from their unauthorized immigrant parents. Take the case of Felipe Montes, a father who has spent the past two years fighting to reunite with his three young children, who were placed in foster care in North Carolina following Montes’ deportation to Mexico in late 2010. Such cases only scratch at the surface of a growing problem. Our immigration policies often fail to address the needs of millions of children whom they directly impact.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, approximately 5.5 million children in the United States, including 4.5 million U.S.-born citizens, live in mixed-legal status families with at least one parent who is an unauthorized immigrant. These children are at risk of being separated from a parent at any time. Parents facing removal must frequently make the decision whether to take their children with them or leave their children in the U.S. in the care of another parent, relative, or friend. In many cases, a parent may determine that it is in their child’s best interest to remain in the U.S. However, in some cases, a parent’s ability to make such decisions is compromised when their child enters the child welfare system, which can prompt a series of events leading to the termination of parental rights. The lack of consistent protocols across the different public systems that encounter separated families further exacerbates the problem.Read more...

Published On: Wed, Dec 12, 2012 | Download File

The 287(g) Program: A Flawed and Obsolete Method of Immigration Enforcement

Under Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may deputize selected state and local law enforcement officers to perform the functions of federal immigration agents. Like employees of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), so-called “287(g) officers” have access to federal immigration databases, may interrogate and arrest noncitizens believed to have violated federal immigration laws, and may lodge “detainers” against alleged noncitizens held in state or local custody.

The program has attracted a wide range of critics since the first 287(g) agreement was signed more than ten years ago. Among other concerns, opponents say the program lacks proper federal oversight, diverts resources from the investigation of local crimes, and results in profiling of Latino residents—as was documented following the entry of a 287(g) agreement with Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona. Following the nationwide expansion of the Secure Communities program, which has its own drawbacks but is operated exclusively by federal authorities, critics have also asked whether the 287(g) program continues to serve any law enforcement benefit.

This fact sheet provides an overview of how the 287(g) program works, as well as arguments raised by its critics. Read more...

Published On: Thu, Nov 29, 2012 | Download File

Border Patrol Agents as Interpreters Along the Northern Border: Unwise Policy, Illegal Practice

By Lisa Graybill

Advocates along the Northern Border report a recent, sharp increase in the use of U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) agents to provide interpretation services to state and local law enforcement officers and emergency responders. This most often occurs when an officer or responder encounters an individual who does not speak English and proactively reaches out to USBP for assistance. But it has also occurred when USBP agents respond to an incident report in lieu of, or in addition to, local law enforcement officers. In other cases, USBP agents have reportedly begun responding to 911 emergency assistance calls, especially if the caller is known or perceived not to speak English. Much of this activity appears to have been precipitated by the fact that the U.S.-Canada border has undergone a dramatic transformation, including an influx of newly assigned USBP agents.

Immigrants, their advocates, and community members are reporting—and official statistics confirm—that there are simply too many USBP agents on the ground, apparently with too much time on their hands, who lack adherence to stated priorities.

This special report by Lisa Graybill for the Immigration Policy Center lays out the problems with border patrol agents serving as translators and make recommendations intended to promote Title VI compliance, maintain the integrity of the USBP mission on the Northern Border, and protect the rights of immigrants and their families who call the Northern Border home.

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Published On: Tue, Sep 25, 2012 | Download File

Public Education for Immigrant Students: States Challenge Supreme Court’s Decision in Plyler v. Doe

In June 1982, the Supreme Court issued Plyler v. Doe, a landmark decision holding that states cannot constitutionally deny students a free public education on account of their immigration status. By a 5-4 vote, the Court found that any resources which might be saved from excluding undocumented children from public schools were far outweighed by the harms imposed on society at large from denying them an education. Read more...

Published On: Fri, Jun 15, 2012 | Download File

Prosecutorial Discretion: A Statistical Analysis

In August 2011, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would review more than 300,000 pending removal proceedings to identify low-priority cases meriting favorable exercises of prosecutorial discretion. The initiative was officially launched in November 2011 and is expected to continue for much of 2012. To date, DHS has released statistics on three occasions measuring the progress of the initiative. This fact sheet provides background information about the case-by-case review process and a statistical assessment of those figures. Read more...

Published On: Mon, Jun 11, 2012 | Download File

From Fingerprints to DNA: Biometric Data Collection in U.S. Immigrant Communities and Beyond

By Jennifer Lynch

The collection of biometrics—including fingerprints, DNA, and face-recognition ready photographs—is becoming more and more a part of society. Both the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are in the process of expanding their biometrics databases to collect even more information, like face prints and iris scans. The expansion of biometric data collection, however, is uniquely affecting undocumented immigrants and immigrant communities. Under DHS’s Secure Communities program, for example, states are required to share their fingerprint data with DHS, thus subjecting undocumented and even documented immigrants in the United States to heightened fears of deportation should they have any interaction with law enforcement.

In this report, co-sponsored by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), author Jennifer Lynch explains the different technologies for collecting biometrics, as well as how that data is collected, stored and used. She raises concerns about data-sharing, legal protection, technological problems, then proposes changes to control and limit the storage of biometrics to benefit not only immigrants, but all people in the U.S. Read more...

Published On: Wed, May 23, 2012

How to Fix a Broken Border: A Three Part Series

In this three part series, former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard assesses current threats to our border security and calls for a coordinated, multi-dimensional, bi-national approach to cracking down on cartels. Goddard's suggestions for federal action include targeting cartel money, closing money-laundering loopholes, pursuing cartel leaders, and focusing border security on ports of entry.

Download the Executive SummaryRead more...

Published On: Thu, May 17, 2012

Falling through the Cracks

How Gaps in ICE's Prosecutorial Discretion Policy Affect Immigrants Without Legal Representation

By Joan Friedland

While the Obama administration’s has expanded use of prosecutorial discretion in immigration cases, the subject of immigrants without legal representation and their ability to access this discretion remains unresolved. In 2011, nearly half of all immigrants in removal proceedings appeared “pro se,” or without legal representation. While immigration attorneys can explain the effect of these policies to their clients, pro se immigrants may be unaware that new policies are even in effect. Immigrant advocates have thus been rightly concerned about whether pro se immigrants in removal proceedings will benefit from Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) prosecutorial discretion policies.

This paper lays out what immigration authorities can do to ensure that pro se immigrants understand what prosecutorial discretion is, how they can seek it, and what they should do after receiving (or not receiving) an offer of it.

 

Published On: Mon, May 14, 2012 | Download File

The Myth of "Self-Deportation"

How Behavioral Economics Reveals the Fallacies behind “Attrition through Enforcement”

By Alexandra Filindra, Ph.D.

The concept of “self-deportation” rests on a deceptively simple premise. According to its supporters, if the federal government invests more in enforcing immigration laws, and if states and localities take on additional immigration control responsibilities, the costs and risks of staying in the United States will increase substantially for undocumented immigrants. Faced with a high risk of being caught and imprisoned, “rational” undocumented residents will “give up and deport themselves” returning to their home countries rather than remain in the U.S.

However, preliminary evidence from studies conducted in states where such enforcement laws have been enacted shows that immigration restrictionists have gotten it wrong. Immigrant population in these states has remained in place and the predicted exodus never materialized. Economic factors, rather than enforcement, have played a far more important role in reducing the rate of undocumented entry into the United States.

This report uses important research findings from cognitive psychology and behavioral economics to explain why restrictionists have gotten it wrong and people do not behave in the “rational” way that restrictionists expect them to.

Published On: Mon, Apr 30, 2012 | Download File