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April 2017, Volume 23, Number 2

DHS: Unauthorized

The Pew Research Center estimated that there were 11.1 million unauthorized foreigners in the US in 2014, including 6.2 million Mexicans, 723,000 Guatemalans, 465,000 Salvadorans, and 337,000 Hondurans. These countries are followed by 200,000 to 270,000 unauthorized foreigners each from Korea, India and China.

There were an estimated 1.2 million unauthorized foreigners in metro New York, a million in metro Los Angeles, and almost 600,000 in metro Houston, where they were nine percent of residents. About 60 percent of unauthorized foreigners, compared to a third of US residents, live in 20 metro areas.

DHS sponsored research that concluded that 170,000 unauthorized foreigners successfully entered the US between ports of entry in 2015, about 465 a day. The number of unauthorized foreigners intercepted just inside the Mexico-US border was less than 18,000 in February 2017, down from over 31,000 in January 2017.

DHS's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in February 2017 mounted raids that led to the arrest of 680 unauthorized foreigners in 11 states. ICE targets foreigners convicted of US crimes, but arrests all unauthorized foreigners detected, including a foreign "gang member" with DACA status that had been renewed. Some 434,000 foreigners were formally deported or removed in FY14, and 333,000 in FY15.

Some 962,000 foreigners who have been ordered deported are still in the US. Over half are from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras, and about 20 percent have been convicted of US crimes. A quarter of those ordered deported are from the 23 countries that refuse to accept the return of their citizens convicted of crimes abroad, including China, Haiti, Brazil and India. Trump ordered the US Department of State to study whether visas should no longer be issued to countries that refuse to accept the return of their citizens.

So-called sanctuary cities do not cooperate with ICE, often releasing unauthorized foreigners unless they are arrested for or convicted of serious crimes. Denver released a Mexican man who posted bail in a car theft case and was charged with murder a few days later, prompting an outcry against the sheriff who released him. Similarly, New York City released a Salvadoran MS-13 gang member who was arrested six times between 2014 and 2017 despite an ICE request to hold him for deportation.

DHS includes over 20 agencies and had a $41 billion budget in FY17 and 229,000 employees. The two major immigration enforcement agencies are Customs Enforcement and the Border Patrol and ICE; their combined budget is $19 billion a year, almost half of the DHS budget. Trump called for $44 billion for DHS in FY18, including a request to Congress to make E-Verify mandatory. Trump proposed reducing funds for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program and using the savings to add federal prosecutors and immigration judges.

EO Implementation. DHS issued memos February 21, 2017 implementing Trump's executive orders on the wall and deportations. The wall memo calls for plans to achieve "operational control of the border" with up to $21 billion in additional spending, while the deportation memo says that virtually all unauthorized foreigners in the US are subject to removal. DHS pledged not to conduct round ups and not to target recipients of DACA status.

There are currently 650 miles of various types of fencing and walls on the 2,000 mile Mexico-US border.

Several firms have said they will not bid on the border wall, including France's LafargeHolcim, the world's largest cement maker, Vinci, Europe's largest builder, and Mexico's Cemex and Grupo Cementos. San Diego's R.E. Staite, which handled the cleanup of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, was one of several hundred firms that bid to build parts of the border wall.

Migrant advocates reported a climate of fear among unauthorized workers and predicted that they would be reluctant to report violations of labor laws for fear that their employers would report them to ICE. A longstanding DHS-DOL MOU directs ICE not to investigate workplaces that are under investigation for labor law violations.

DHS will seek expedited removal of unauthorized foreigners in the US less than two years, and will no longer release unauthorized foreigners who cross the Mexico-US border and apply for asylum. Since immigration courts are backlogged, previous catch-and-release policies meant that it was often hard to find rejected asylum seekers.

Some 52,000 Central American mothers with children and 26,700 unaccompanied minors arrived at the Mexico-US border and requested asylum in FY16, up from 27,400 and 23,900 in FY05. DHS is considering several policy changes to slow the influx, including separating mothers from children while their claims are considered.

Some unauthorized parents pay to have their children smuggled into the US, since US policy is to place unaccompanied minors with relatives who are in the US. DHS is considering charging parents who pay smugglers as accomplices.

DHS is considering a change to the status of unaccompanied minors. If they are united with their illegal parents in the US, which occurs in about 60 percent of cases, they would no longer be considered unaccompanied, which could speed the processing of their cases.

Sanctions. San Diego's 45-seat French Gourmet restaurant paid $396,000 in fines in 2008 after 18 unauthorized workers were arrested, prompting it to enroll in E-Verify. Gourmet's owner Michel Malecot says that the total cost of dealing with the government for hiring unauthorized workers was over $1 million and that using E-Verify puts him at a competitive disadvantage with other restaurants, who can hire unauthorized workers at lower wages.

ICE made 239 arrests as a result of workplace enforcement in FY16, down from 713 in FY11. There were 1,279 employer audits in FY16, down from 3,127 in FY13. Some 38,500 US restaurants are enrolled in E-Verify.

EB-5. The US grants up to 10,000 immigrant visas a year to foreigners and their families who invest at least $500,000 and create or preserve 10 US jobs. So-called regional centers match foreigners, 80 percent Chinese, with US projects in exchange for payments from both would-be immigrants and developers. In FY06, fewer than 500 foreign investors applied; in FY16, over 14,000 applied.

Several regional centers have defrauded foreign investors, prompting USCIS in March 2017 to announce audits of them. Bills pending in Congress would require foreigners to invest more to receive immigrant visas and step up regulation of regional centers.

DHS accused an EB-5 marketer, the California Investment Immigration Fund in Los Angeles, of defrauding the US government and Chinese investors in April 2017. Most of the projects for which probationary visas were issued were built, and some went to fugitives from China's 100 most-wanted list.

Visa Waiver. The US grants visa-free access to citizens of 38 countries, including all EU member states except Cyprus, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia. The EU wants the US to grant visa-free access to all EU nationals, as Australia, Canada, and Japan do, while the US is considering tightening the visa-waiver program.