The Obama administration will insist on measures to give legal status to illegal immigrants as it pushes early next year for legislation to overhaul the immigration system, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Friday.
Immigration prosecutions rose to record levels in 2009 as the Obama administration kept up aggressive enforcement that began under President George W. Bush.
Immigration cases increased by about a fifth over the previous year and made up a third of all new criminal filings in U.S. district courts in the government spending year that ended Sept. 30. The statistics were compiled by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
Here we go again. It seems like an eternity since immigration reform was part of the national dialogue: Back in 2006-2007, George W. Bush was president, and Senator Ted Kennedy was leading the push for a bipartisan immigration reform package in the Senate with the collaboration of Senator John McCain of Arizona. Their proposal ultimately failed, and the 2008 presidential campaign halted all forward movement to reform our outdated immigration system.
Benjamin Johnson, a researcher with the American Immigration Institute, said the immigration debate in the United States has become entirely fixed on the issue of “securing the border.” He cited the recently signed Arizona state law that gave police greater power to enforce federal immigration laws. Fear and uncertainty about the border led to the passage of that law, Johnson insisted.
“This appetite for enforcement at the border seems almost insatiable,” he said. “The focus of legislative efforts and debate seem to always come back to this question of border enforcement.”
"Immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens," said Ben Johnson, executive director of the American Immigration Council.
Johnson said the share of immigrants in federal prisons may seem alarming but that only 8 percent of all U.S. prisoners are in such facilities. Most are in state and local prisons, where incarceration rates for immigrants are lower than average.
He also pointed out that many immigrants in the federal system may simply be there because they lack legal immigration status -- not for having committed flagrant criminal offenses.
"No community is immune from the ravages of drugs and sexual violence. But the overwhelming majority of those crimes are not done by immigrants," Johnson said. "We don't ask criminals about their political affiliation or their religion. So why should we focus on their immigration status?"
The nonpartisan Washington D.C.-based Immigration Policy Center, for instance, says legalizing undocumented workers is the way to go.
On its website, the center says, “Comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to legalization for undocumented workers would pay for itself through the increased tax revenue it generates, in contrast to the failed and costly enforcement-only policies that have been pursued thus far.”
According to a new report, the center says, immigration reform that includes a legalization program for unauthorized immigrants and enables a future flow of legal workers would result in a big economic benefit.
This Practice Advisory discusses whether and how a person can get review of a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services decision in federal court if he or she did not appeal the decision to the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO). The advisory addresses the Supreme Court case Darby v. Cisneros, holding that a plaintiff is not required to exhaust non-mandatory administrative remedies in certain situations, and how it may apply to cases involving appeals to the AAO.
Ben Johnson, the executive director of the Washington-based American Immigration Council, says Hatch’s bill is simply more of the same rhetoric that’s been tossed around for a while and does nothing to move the debate forward.
“The reality is that there too many politicians, and I think, unfortunately, Senator Hatch is beginning to fall into that category, introducing legislation not in any effort to actually get it passed but to send messages to their constituents,” Johnson said.
Johnson added some parts of Hatch’s legislation are already addressed in existing law.
“Declaring that we should deny visas to gang members and members of organized crime is like outlawing dinosaurs in Utah,” Johnson