April 2007 Volume 14 Number 2
DHS: Border, Interior
Border. The New York Times reported on February 21, 2007 that migrants were being deterred from entering the US along the Arizona-Mexico border. The number of migrants apprehended fell from 594,000 during the first six months of FY06 to 418,000 during the first six months of FY07. There were 1.2 million foreigners apprehended in FY05, and 1.1 million in FY06.
The Associated Press reported on April 7, 2007 that 98 percent of the 5.3 million foreigners apprehended between FY01 and FY05 were returned to Mexico without prosecution. Some 30,848 of those apprehended in FY05 were prosecuted.
Illegal entry is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine and up to six months in prison for a first offense. If an alien has been prosecuted and deported and then sneaks back into the country, he can be charged with a felony punishable by up to two years behind bars.
Eight US attorneys were fired in winter 2007, including San Diego's Carol Chien-Hua Lam, who was accused of not bringing enough border and immigration indictments. According to the Border Patrol, fewer than 10 percent of suspected smugglers arrested in the San Diego area were prosecuted. Memos released in the investigation of the firings showed that in most border districts, the same individual had to be apprehended at least six times before being prosecuted by the US Attorney's office. The exception was the Del Rio area of south Texas, where every adult apprehended since 2006 has been prosecuted and jailed, usually 15 days for first offenders, before being returned.
Lam said that limited resources forced her office to choose between prosecuting alien smugglers, who typically received 60-day jail sentences, and foreigner sex offenders, who often received sentences of up to eight years. Her office prosecuted more sex offenders.
Mexico formally protested the killing of a migrant by a Border Patrol agent on January 12, 2007 just inside the Arizona border, expressing "serious concern over the recurrence of this type of incident." The 22-year old was crossing in a group of six, and reportedly scuffled with the agent.
On February 8, 2007 at least three unauthorized foreigners were killed trying to enter the US in Arizona. Authorities said that, with tighter border controls pushing smuggling fees to $3,000 or more, some smugglers have begun to kidnap migrants from other smugglers and then extort money from their relatives. They speculated that this case could have been a kidnapping gone bad.
Beginning January 23, 2007, Americans returning to the US by air must have passports. The passport rule is scheduled to extend to sea and land ports by January 1, 2008, but may be delayed until 2009. Until now, returning Americans could show a driver's license or birth certificate; the 8,000 types of birth certificates were too easily forged, according to CBP.
At the beginning of 2006, about 27 percent of Americans had passports (40 percent of Canadians had passports). The US issued 12 million passports in 2006, up from 10 million in 2005 and expects to issue 17 million in 2007, in part because new requirements that Americans returning from neighboring countries have passports. Canadian businesses fear a decline in US visitors. Their number dropped almost 30 percent between 2002 and 2007 (the US dollar depreciated sharply over this period, increasing costs for Americans in Canada).
CBP reported that 422 million travelers entered the US by land in FY06, including 234 million who crossed the Mexican border and 75 million who crossed the Canadian border.
Interior. DHS's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has been urging employers in industries suspected of hiring unauthorized foreigners to join the ICE Mutual Agreement Between Government and Employers program, known as IMAGE. Participating employers voluntarily submit all I-9 employee eligibility verification forms to ICE for an audit.
IMAGE is separate from Basic Pilot, which allows volunteering employers to submit Social Security numbers and immigration data of new hires for verification. IMAGE checks all employees, not just new hires. Smithfield Foods, which has been participating in IMAGE since June 2006, said that IMAGE found problems with 541 of the firm's 5,000 employees in Tar Heel, North Carolina.
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) got the Senate to approve an amendment to a supplemental spending bill that would bar contractors from federal grants or contracts for 10 years if they are convicted of hiring unauthorized foreigners. Employers participating in the Basic Pilot electronic employment eligibility verification program would be exempt from the debarment penalty, which is opposed by most business groups.
USCIS says that 92 percent of new hire checks result in instant confirmation of a person's legal status, and that the remaining eight percent of cases are resolved within 10 days.
In February 2007, three executives of the janitorial firm Rosenbaum-Cunningham International were charged with defrauding the federal government of more than $18 million in employment taxes owed on behalf of hundreds of unauthorized janitors between 1999 and 2007; 200 were arrested. Between 2001 and 2005, RCI was paid $54 million, and saved $19 million by not paying required Social Security and other taxes, according to the indictment.
Commercial cleaning services are a $100 billion US industry employing nearly a million workers across the private sector; many employees are unauthorized.
The Wall Street Journal on February 27, 2007 reviewed the ICE case against IFCO Systems, a recycler of wooden pallets. In April 2006, ICE arrested 1,187 unauthorized workers at 52 IFCO sites in 26 states, as well as seven US managers charged with knowingly hiring them; five of the managers pleaded guilty to human-smuggling charges. ICE alleged that over half of IFCO's 5,800 US workers may be in the US illegally. The story detailed how an ICE informant got a job with IFCO and soon became a foreman assigned to recruit more unauthorized workers. The Social Security Administration found that over half of IFCO's workers in 2005 had social security numbers that did not match their names.
In March 2007, two executives of Golden State Fence Co who pleaded guilty to hiring unauthorized workers were sentenced to three years probation, fined and made to forfeit $4.7 million in profits earned from the hiring of unauthorized workers. The government urged imprisonment for six months, but the judge cited Golden State's relatively good treatment of its workers and gave them probation.
The number of employers arrested by ICE has risen from 25 in 2002 to 718 in 2006. ICE says that "Criminal enforcement against an employer sends a strong message to other employers to pay attention to their hiring process." Software developer Jason Mrochek created a web site, http://www.wehirealiens.com, that lists firms believed to hire unauthorized workers. ICE maintains a hot line, (866) DHS-2ICE, to receive reports of employers hiring unauthorized workers.
In March 2007, ICE agents raided Michael Bianco Inc of New Beford, Massachusetts, which makes vests and backpacks for the US Armed Forces, removing 360 workers or over half of the workforce. Bianco won $111,000 in state grants to train new employees over the past four years, but in 2007 Massachusetts began to require employers receiving state training grants to verify that their workers were legal.
Many of the Bianco employees were from Guatemala, and New Beford's mayor criticized ICE for disrupting families, as 361 workers who reported earning $6.75 an hour were detained, many in Texas. Over 60 of those detained were released on humanitarian grounds, such as having no one else to care for young children, most of whom are US citizens. Several managers of what ICE called a sweatshop were arrested.
Guatemalan President _scar Berger criticized the New Beford raid while welcoming President Bush in Guatemala City in March 2007. Senator Kennedy (D-MA) sent a letter to DHS urging that those detained be returned to Massachusetts and released until they appear before immigration judges. An estimated 10 percent of living persons born in Guatemala now live in the US.
ICE detains foreigners inside the US, and in May 2006 opened its first detention facility for families in Taylor, Texas. The 512-bed facility, operated by the Corrections Corporation of America, ordinarily holds about 200 children and 150 adults. Mostly they are families waiting for decisions on asylum applications. The US does not normally detain families, and thus there are no guidelines for family detentions, prompting critics to denounce the Taylor facility.
USCIS. The Washington Post on January 4, 2007 reported that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) was unable to process current applications for immigration benefits such as naturalization in a timely way. The $2 billion a year agency gets most of its funds from fees it charges to those seeking benefits.
Some say that fee-based funding prevents USCIS from making the IT improvements needed to keep up with its workload. USCIS plans to raise the fee for naturalization from $400 to $675 in June 2007. Immigrants can normally apply to become naturalized US citizens after five years in the US (three years if they are married to a US citizen, and one year if they are in the military, and there were an estimated 50,0000 immigrant soldiers in March 2007).
There were 12.8 million naturalized US citizens in 2005, making them a third of the 36 million foreign-born US residents; another 8.5 million foreigners are eligible to naturalize. Between 1995 and 2005, an average of 650,000 foreigners a year naturalized; in the 1970s, naturalizations averaged 150,000 a year. To become citizens, legal immigrants must be over 18, show they have lived continuously in the United States for five years, and pass a basic English test and a background check.
Refugees. The US admitted 41,277 refugees in FY06, down from over 50,000 in FY04 and FY05. One reason is that US anti-terrorism laws, especially the Patriot Act and Real ID Act, deny entry to the US to anyone who has provided "material support" to terrorist groups.
The Bush administration in January 2007 relaxed these restrictions by announcing that it would issue more waivers to allow those supporting anti-government groups in Myanmar, Tibet and Cuba to enter the US. There are three list of terrorist groups, two of which list organizations by name. The third list, known as Tier 3, is defined by action and encompasses any group of two or more people, organized or not, that uses any device or weapon to cause injury to person or property.