There is a growing consensus that our immigration system is broken. Severe visa backlogs hurt U.S. businesses, undocumented workers are frequently exploited, and record levels of deportations tear families apart. While much energy is now focused on addressing these problems, one issue that is frequently overlooked is the structure and quality of justice accorded immigrants who are caught in the enforcement net. In reforming our immigration system, we must not forget that the immigration removal system—from arrest to hearing to deportation and beyond—does not reflect American values of due process and fundamental fairness.
The failure to provide a fair process to those facing expulsion from the United States is all the more disturbing given the increasing “criminalization” of the immigration enforcement system. Although immigration law is formally termed “civil,” Congress has progressively expanded the number of crimes that may render an individual deportable, and immigration law violations often lead to criminal prosecutions. Further, local police now play an increasingly active role in immigration enforcement. Consequently, even relatively minor offenses can result in a person being detained in immigration custody and deported, often with no hope of ever returning to the United States.
This special report is a product of the Immigration Policy Center and the Legal Action Center of the American Immigration Council. It lays out the the incongruency of America's criminal justice system and its immigration justice system, and provides recommendations for how these problems could be fixed.
The data analyzed in IPC's latest Special Report, Economic Progress via Legalization, indicates that unauthorized immigrants who gained legal status in the 1980s through the legalization provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) experienced clear improvement in their socioeconomic situation. Between 1990 and 2006, the educational attainment of IRCA immigrants increased substantially, their poverty rates fell dramatically, and their home ownership rates improved tremendously. Moreover, their real wages rose, many of them moved into managerial positions, and the vast majority did not depend upon public assistance. The findings presented in this report support the notion that legalization of unauthorized immigrants can play a role in promoting economic growth and lessening socioeconomic disparities. Reforming our immigration system is not an obstacle to getting our economy back on track—it is part of the solution.
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.
How the Supreme Court Ruled and What It Means for Other States
By Ben Winograd
On June 25, 2012, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Arizona v. United States, striking down three provisions of the immigration law known as “SB 1070” and leaving a fourth open to future legal challenges. More than any matter in recent history, the case settled a range of important questions regarding the role that states may play in the enforcement of federal immigration law. The Court’s decision will affect not only the future of SB 1070, but the fate of other state immigration laws being challenged in court and the odds of similar laws being passed around the country.
This guide provides brief answers to common questions about Arizona v. United States, including how the Supreme Court decided the case and what the ruling means for immigration laws in other states. Read more...
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...
Discretion takes many forms throughout the immigration enforcement process. Every removal of a noncitizen from the United States, for example, reflects a series of complex choices which reflect discretion.
To understand the role of discretion fully, however, we need to examine the entire range of opportunities to exercise discretion in immigration enforcement and the cast of decision makers who make discretionary decisions, such as members of Congress who enact laws, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officers who make arrests, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) trial attorneys who represent the government in removal proceedings, and immigration judges who preside over those proceedings.
This Special Report traces the role of discretion throughout the immigration enforcement process. Understanding these roles is important not only in individual cases, but also in how policymakers write regulations and draft laws. Knowing how the enforcement system anticipates and incorporates discretion is key to understanding how our immigration laws work.
What You Need to Know if Your State is Considering Anti-immigrant Legislation
Updated 2012 - In April 2010, Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act,” or, as it is commonly known, SB1070. At the time of its passage, Arizona’s immigration law surpassed all previous state immigration-control efforts. While much of the law has been enjoined by the courts, its passage inspired legislators in other states to pass similar legislation.
Since SB1070 passed, 36 other states have attempted to pass harsh immigration-control laws. Of those, 31 states have rejected or refused to advance their bills. However, five states—Utah, Indiana, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama—have passed laws that mirror or go beyond the Arizona law. It is likely that additional states will attempt to pass similar anti-immigrant legislation during the 2012 legislative session.
SB1070 and other immigration-related state legislation represent, among other things, a growing frustration with our broken immigration system. The courts will decide the constitutionality of the various laws, and time will answer many questions about their impact. In the short term, much evidence suggests that an enforcement-only strategy—whether attempted at the federal or state level—will not solve the root causes of unauthorized immigration.Read more...
Why an Attrition through Enforcement Strategy Makes Life Difficult for Everyone
By Michele Waslin
The day that Alabama’s draconian anti-immigrant law went into effect in October of 2011, thousands of school children were reported absent from schools across the state, and workers did not show up for their jobs. In recent months, many immigrants living in the state have confined themselves to their homes, fearful of driving their kids to school, getting groceries, or seeking medical attention. The Alabama State Representative behind the law, Mickey Hammon, explicitly stated that this was the law’s intended effect. He said that the law, HB56, “attacks every aspect of an illegal alien’s life” and “is designed to make it difficult for them to live here so they will deport themselves.”
Alabama provides a sterling example of the devastating impact of a strategic and systematic plan being promoted by anti-immigrant groups and lawmakers who have jumped on the bandwagon. The plan is called “attrition through enforcement” (sometimes called “self deportation”) and the groups behind it have created a web of federal and state legislative proposals that seek to reduce illegal immigration by making it difficult, if not impossible, for unauthorized immigrants to live in American society. While individual proposals may appear to be relatively benign, they are part of a larger systematic plan that undermines basic human rights, devastates local economies, and places unnecessary burdens on U.S. citizens and lawful immigrants.Read more...
By Marcia Hohn, Ed.D. Director, Public Education Institute at The Immigrant Learning Center, Inc.
There is widespread agreement across a number of key economic planning groups that immigrant entrepreneurs create jobs and strengthen the economy. Yet, the U.S. immigration system often forces out immigrant entrepreneurs, driving them to other countries that are competing for international talent. Although many people recognize the giants of immigrant entrepreneurship, such as Sergey Brin of Google and Pierre Omidyar of eBay, thousands of other science and technology businesses are quietly making a difference by creating almost half a million jobs for Americans and generating revenue of more than $50 billion. The depth and breadth of immigrant entrepreneurs extend across the spectrum of enterprises, including neighborhood, growth, and transnational businesses. Expansion of employment-based visas would allow companies’ access to high-potential foreign individuals who are graduates of U.S. universities. Businesses, cities, and states across the country should support changes in visa policy and work to develop partnerships with immigrant entrepreneurs to create jobs and strengthen the economy.
The report features profiles of immigrant entrepreneurs and shines a light on some of the difficulties they face. Current immigration laws make it difficult for many immigrant entrepreneurs to contribute to the nation’s growth. The report contains administrative and legislative proposals that taken together could create an atmosphere that fosters growth.Read more...
(Updated January 2012) The United States and the colonial society that preceded it were created by successive waves of immigration from all corners of the globe. But public and political attitudes towards immigrants have always been ambivalent and contradictory, and sometimes hostile. The early immigrants to colonial America—from England, France, Germany, and other countries in northwestern Europe—came in search of economic opportunity and political freedom, yet they often relied upon the labor of African slaves working land taken from Native Americans. The descendants of these first European immigrants sometimes viewed as “racially” and religiously suspect the European immigrants who came to the United States in the late 1800s from Italy, Poland, Russia, and elsewhere in southeastern Europe. The descendants of these immigrants, in turn, have often taken a dim view of the growing numbers of Latin American, Asian, and African immigrants who began to arrive in the second half of the 20th century.