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July 2012 Volume 19 Number 3
DHS: Border, Interior, USCIS
Border. The Border Patrol ran ads in spring 2012 in Mexico, Central America and US cities with high shares of migrants warning of the dangers of trying to enter the US illegally in summer via the deserts on the Mexico-US border. Fewer than 340,000 foreigners were apprehended just inside the Mexico-US border in FY11, down from over 1.6 million in FY00.<< back
Some richer countries "push their borders out" by enlisting officials in sending and transit countries in efforts to prevent unwanted migration. The US is sending more Customs and Border Protection agency inspectors to foreign airports in an effort to deter unwanted migrants, including terrorists. Some 80 million passengers a year fly to the United States from 300 foreign airports.
In Canadian and Irish airports, CBP officers inspect passengers headed for the US, so that, when they land, passengers simply enter the US. In 12 other countries, CBP officers watch passengers headed for the US and are allowed to intervene to prevent particular passengers from traveling to the US. Over the past two years, CBP officers stationed abroad prevented 500 passengers from flying to the US.
Interior. DHS's Inspector General in April 2012 reported that Secure Communities, a federal-state program that checks the fingerprints of persons arrested by state and local police against both FBI and DHS databases, has identified many immigrants who committed serious crimes in the US. Nevertheless, the IG report also concluded that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency did a poor job communicating with state and local governments about Secure Communities, which began in 2008.
ICE, which says that Secure Communities will operate in all 3,281 state and local jurisdictions by 2013, has instructed its agents to prioritize the detection and removal of serious criminals and to exercise prosecutorial discretion to suspend deportations of illegal immigrants who do not have criminal convictions. In April 2012, ICE announced that it would not place holds or detainers on foreigners arrested by state and local police for minor traffic violations but would detain those arrested for drunk driving.
Critics of Secure Communities say that involving state and local police in immigration enforcement encourages racial profiling and erodes trust in law enforcement among immigrants.
ICE is reviewing cases in which it is trying to deport or remove foreigners. With deportations running at about 400,000 a year and immigration reform stalled in Congress, President Obama in summer 2011 ordered a review of deportation cases to identify those where the government may exercise prosecutorial discretion and elect not to deport particular foreigners, including those with close US relatives, those who arrived as children, and those who served in the military.
ICE reviewed about 288,000 deportation cases in the past year and suspended removal proceedings in two percent, protecting 4,400 foreigners. The suspension percentage is expected to rise toward 10 percent when background criminal checks are completed on those who appear to be eligible for deferred removal. Unauthorized foreigners whose deportation cases are suspended can continue living in the US, but they do not receive work permits.
ICE, which has 26 offices around the US, is stepping up I-9 audits, checking more of the forms completed by newly-hired workers and their employers. Since Obama took office in January 2009, over 7,500 employers have undergone I-9 audits that resulted in ICE ordering employers to fire thousands of workers; ICE also levied $100 million in administrative fines. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said that the increasing number of I-9 audits will "decimate our farms and farm-dependent jobs."
USCIS. US Citizenship and Immigration Services operates the E-Verify system that allows employers to submit data on newly-hired workers to check against government databases. USCIS normally issues employment-authorized confirmations in seconds, but in two percent of cases it issues tentative nonconfirmations while it checks its records to determine if the person is a legal worker. In about 0.5 percent of cases, USCIS issues a final nonconfirmation that the person is not authorized to work in the US. Employers must fire workers with final nonconfirmations or risk fines.
In spring 2012, 39 members of Congress wrote a letter to USCIS requesting the creation of an appeals process for workers who receive final nonconfirmations. They noted that there were 17.4 million E-Verify queries in FY11 and emphasized that even a small share of erroneous final nonconfirmations could keep up to 85,000 legal workers a year from being hired by employers using E-Verify.
Some 694,193 immigrants became naturalized US citizens in FY11, up from 619,913 in FY10. In FY09, 743,715 immigrants were naturalized and in FY08 over a million.
The New York Times reported on April 11, 2012 that more foreign performers are bypassing the US because of the difficulty of obtaining visas; USCIS approvals declined 25 percent between FY06 and FY10. Foreign performers must pay $325 to USCIS to evaluate their request and submit the USCIS approval with their applications for visas at Department of State consulates. USCIS does not examine requests until foreign performers sign US contracts, which can narrow the window between the time that foreigners apply to USCIS and when they are scheduled to perform in the US.