August 1999 Volume 6 Number 8
INS: Border, Deportation
Border. The INS in June and July 1999 came under fire for releasing suspected serial killer Angel Maturino Resendez, who was on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list. Resendez, suspected of eight US murders, was caught and released voluntarily back into Mexico nine times by the Border Patrol in the past 18 months despite three formal deportations. Resendez surrendered to authorities on a Juarez-El Paso bridge in mid-July.
Resendez was in the INS' IDENT system, an electronic system that stores fingerprints and photos of people caught trying to enter the country illegally. IDENT is in use in 408 INS border sites, in many airports and even in some cities. Reviews of IDENT found that fewer than half of those deported in FY96 were entered into the IDENT system. The system has become more complete, but in June 1999 it held 1.9 million records; maximum capacity was reported to be two million records.
The INS has spent $65 million on the IDENT system and plans to spend $98 million more on it. The INS is also opening a Law Enforcement Support Center in Vermont to provide information about foreign-born residents to law enforcement agencies around the clock.
The US Border Patrol began May 28, 1924 in El Paso, Texas. In 1999, the Border Patrol has 8,000 agents and accounts for three-fourths of the INS' $4 billion budget. There are more Border Patrol agents than police in the San Diego area, and more agents in south Texas than police and sheriff's deputies combined. The average age of newly hired agents is 26. About one-third are Hispanics: all Border agents must speak Spanish.
Deportation. In FY98, the INS deported 171,816 foreigners, including 55,869 criminals. About 12,000 of the 16,000 foreigners now detained by the INS are awaiting deportation, including about 3,800 from Cuba, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia—countries that refuse to accept the return of citizens convicted of crimes in the US.
In 1996, Congress made deportation mandatory for most non-US citizen criminals and severely restricted the rights of immigration judges to grant waivers and of federal courts to review the immigration judges' decisions.
Immigrant advocates have successfully challenged some provisions of the 1996 laws. Five federal judges in July 1999 ruled that the INS cannot detain indefinitely "lifers" or "non-removable" criminal aliens for whom the INS cannot obtain travel documents from their countries of origin. The judges ruled that "detention by the INS can be lawful only in aid of deportation. Thus, it is 'excessive' to detain an alien indefinitely if deportation will never occur." The INS released several southeast Asians in Seattle after the ruling and released 39 long-term detainees in Florida.
The US has an estimated 85,000 foreign criminals in state prisons and 30,000 in federal prisons. Under the Institutional Removals Program, the US holds deportation hearings in 70 federal and state prisons, so that foreigners can be deported as soon as they have served their sentences.
In 1988, grounds for deportation were broadened when "aggravated felony" was added to the list of crimes that could lead to deportation. The definition of aggravated felony has been steadily broadened to include acts such as tax evasion, burglary, perjury and fraud involving $10,000 or more. Another ground for deportation -- a crime of "moral turpitude" –was expanded to encompass any crime that may draw a one-year sentence upon conviction. In New York City, failure to pay the subway fare can lead to a one-year sentence.
The INS has doubled the number of prosecutions for immigration-related offenses between 1992 and 1998, from 7,335 to 14,616. The average sentence jumped from two to 12 months over these six years; the federal court districts in Southern California, Arizona and Western Texas accounted for about half of those convictions. For more information: http://trac.syr.edu/tracins/index.html
Immigrants must follow the same requirements of registration with the Selective Service and may enlist in the US Armed Forces. Immigrant recruits—there were 5,267 of them-- were 3.1 percent of first-term enlistments in 1995; the 8,171 immigrant recruits in 1998 were 4.6 percent of the total. Immigrants who serve in the US Armed Forces can naturalize after three years, down from the usual five years.
Taxes/Investors. Some 4,415 Americans have renounced their US citizenship over the past five years. In 1996, a law was enacted that presumes that those citizens with a net worth of $500,000 or more, or a federal income tax bill of $100,000 or more, who renounced their US citizenship did so in order to avoid US taxes. The 1996 law permits the US to levy income taxes on US income for ten years after renouncing US citizenship.
Congress created a program in 1990 that offers immigration visas in exchange for a minimum $500,000 investment that creates or preserves 10 US jobs. Many US firms created financial packages that let foreigners apply for investor visas by putting up relatively little money, often $100,000 or $125,000 and borrowing the rest. US consulates abroad began to challenge petitions for immigrant investor visas that involved financial arrangements in which little of the applicant's money was at risk, and the foreigner was not involved in the management of the US investment.
In December 1997, the INS suspended applications for investor visas and ruled that conditional visas granted to foreigners who had not put the full $500,000 at risk would not be converted into permanent visas. The INS resumed accepting investor visa applicants in September 1998, but is scrutinizing them more carefully, resulting in delays.
Many immigrant investors are demanding their money back, which is leading to disputes with the US firms that marketed the schemes. A Florida attorney who advertised investor green cards for $100,000 plus fees is being sued by several foreigners who provided $100,000 to invest and $20,000 in fees, but did not get green cards.
Relatively few investor visas are granted: 10,000 a year are available, but only 936 were granted in FY96, and only 295 of these were for the investors themselves--the rest were for their spouses and children.
Genital mutilation . A Ghanaian woman detained since she arrived at Kennedy International Airport in March 1997 with a false passport and requested asylum on the grounds that, if returned, she would face female genital mutilation, was released in July 1999. The US 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in July 1999 recognized the fear of genital cutting as a legitimate claim in requests for asylum; the INS recognized female genital mutilation as a basis for asylum in 1996.
Andrew Jacobs, "Fugitive From Genital Cutting Is Released From U.S. Jail," New York Times, July 20, 1999. Barry Newman, "Deportation Law With Little Leniency Gives a Swift Boot to Criminal Aliens," Wall Street Journal, July 9, 1999. GAO. 1999. Illegal Aliens: Significant Obstacles to Reducing Unauthorized Alien Employment Exist. T-GGD-99-105. July 1. http://www.gao.gov/new.items/gg99105t.pdf