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April 2014, Volume 21, Number 2

DHS: Border, Interior, USCIS

Border. The number of foreigners apprehended by the US Border Patrol just inside US borders peaked at over 1.7 million a year in both FY86 and FY00. Almost 365,000 foreigners were apprehended in FY12, up slightly from FY11. Most were Mexicans, and a third of apprehensions occurred south of Tucson, Arizona.

Another 194,000 foreigners were denied entry to the US at a port of entry in FY12, down from 212,000 in FY11. Mexicans were a third of those denied entry.

Operation Streamline is a federal effort to prosecute unauthorized foreigners apprehended just inside US borders. Those apprehended for the first time are charged with illegal entry, a misdemeanor, but persons who have been apprehended previously can be charged with illegal re-entry, a felony punishable by up to two years in prison. Sentences for recidivists range from 30 days to six months and are served in federal prisons, county jails and private detention centers that operate under contract with the government.

The Congressional Research Service reported in May 2013 that the recidivism rate for unauthorized foreigners handled under Operation Streamline was 10 percent, compared to 27 percent for migrants who agreed to a voluntary return and thus avoided prosecution. These data suggest that more severe punishment deters re-entry attempts.

There are more Border Patrol agents, 21,400 at the end of FY13, and more migrants being killed by agents. Migrant advocates say that younger and less well-trained agents sometimes confront rock throwers and suspected migrant smugglers, leading to shootings. In March 2014, the chief of the Border Patrol reminded agents to take cover when rocks are thrown and not to place themselves in front of moving vehicles so that they must shoot to defend themselves.

The Border Patrol says that agents have been assaulted with rocks 1,713 times since 2010. Agents responded with deadly force 43 times, resulting in 10 deaths.

The New York Times reported April 10, 2014 that more Central Americans are crossing the Mexico-US border in South Texas and applying for asylum, citing gang violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Apprehensions are down along most of the Mexico-US border, but up in south Texas, the closest point to Central America.

Many Central Americans, including women and children, travel through Mexico to the US border, where smugglers assure them that the US Border Patrol will process and release them. This means that, once in the US, migrants with a "credible fear" of persecution at home may approach Border Patrol agents rather than hide from them, especially families with children expect to be given a court date a year ahead and released.

Over 85 percent of the 36,000 "credible fear" claims made by Central Americans in FY13 were accepted.

During asylum hearings, migrants must convince immigration judges that they face a "well-founded fear of persecution" based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or ?membership in a particular social group." Many Central Americans are found not to be in need of asylum, since fleeing extortion or forced recruitment by criminal gangs are not usual grounds for asylum, but the process normally takes 18 months or more.

Interior. The US removed or deported 369,000 foreigners in FY13, and deported over two million foreigners between 2009, when President Obama took office, and April 2014. Most of those deported are young Mexican men, including 20 percent convicted of serious US crimes.

Many of those deported over the past six years were convicted of traffic offenses, including DUI, and illegal re-entry to the US, prompting protests from migrant activists who highlight cases of sympathetic foreigners who were deported. In March 2014, Obama expressed "deep concern about the pain too many families feel from the separation that comes from our broken immigration system" and ordered a review of interior immigration enforcement to conduct such actions "more humanely within the confines of the law."

Some migrant advocates hope that the result of the review will be a halt to deportations of parents of unauthorized youth who have received DACA status or others likely to be legalized under the Senate's 2013 bill. Many migrant advocates want a moratorium on removals of foreigners who could benefit from legalization. The #Not1More campaign held a rally April 4, 2014 calling for a halt to deportations, and end to Secure Communities, and an expansion of DACA to all unauthorized foreigners in the US.

Restrictionists argue that the presence of almost 12 million unauthorized foreigners proves that President Obama cannot be trusted to enforce immigration laws.

Of the 369,000 foreigners deported in FY13, two-thirds were apprehended just inside the US-Mexico border and put into detention proceedings because they had been caught before or were smugglers. Previously, most Mexicans apprehended just inside the US accepted "voluntary return," meaning that the US government did not try to deport them in exchange for their voluntary return to Mexico.

Some 134,000 foreigners who were detected more than 100 miles from US borders were formally removed in 2013, down from 238,000 in 2009. John Sandweg, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said "If you are a run-of-the-mill immigrant here illegally, your odds of getting deported are close to zero ? it's just highly unlikely to happen."

Some of these interior deportations begin with a stop by local police, who via Secure Communities share information on persons arrested with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. ICE agents, who do not check the legal status of people at "sensitive locations," including schools, hospitals and churches, or at funerals, weddings and public demonstrations, often rely on local police to make arrests and then take unauthorized foreigners into custody.

Many of the unauthorized who come to the attention of ICE and are deported could benefit from legalization. The New York Times on March 20, 2014 profiled Josue Noe Sandoval-Perez, a 41-year old father of a US citizen child with no criminal record who was deported to Mexico in January 2014. Sandoval-Perez returned to the US with another person's immigrant visa in 1998, and was arrested by local police after inserting coins into a counting machine that jammed and then showing responding officers IDs with several names, prompting them to turn him over to ICE. Sandoval-Perez's 17-year old son is protected by DACA and his 12-year old daughter was born in the US.

Foreigners that the government wants to deport appear before immigration judges, where the government prosecutes and the foreigner is the defendant who can contest the government's evidence. Few foreigners mount successful defenses, but many try to delay their removal, so that the backlog of foreigners awaiting deportations is over 1.1 million. Immigration-related cases are over half of all federal prosecutions.

A federal judge in March 2014 accused 81-year old Maricopa county sheriff Joe Arpaio of defying a 2013 order to stop profiling unauthorized Latinos. Arpaio has denied the allegations, and he appears poised to win a seventh term as sheriff in 2016. The US Department of Justice charged that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office violated the civil rights of Latinos.

USCIS. US Citizenship and Immigration Services is falling behind in issuing immigrant visas to spouses and children of US citizens. There is no quota or queue for US citizens seeking immigrant visas for immediate family members, and the processing time for visas is normally five months or less.

Immediate relatives of US citizens are required to wait outside the US until their visas are processed, meaning that they are not allowed to enter the US as tourists while their applications are being processed.

The New York Times reported February 9, 2014 that the wait for immigrant visas for immediate family members of US citizens stretched to 15 months as over 500,000 applications accumulated. USCIS said that one reason for longer processing times was the increased workload associated with DACA, the program that allows unauthorized youth to receive a temporary legal status.

USCIS naturalized between 600,000 and 700,000 foreigners a year over the past five years. Since the US accepts over a million immigrants a year, this means that two-thirds of all immigrants eventually become naturalized US citizens. FY08 and FY96 were exceptions; over a million foreigners were naturalized each of those years.

Naturalization costs $680, and requires foreigners to have been legal immigrants at least five years and to pass English and civics tests.

Naturalized US citizens earn more than legal immigrants, in part because they are generally in the US longer and may have more knowledge of English. Immigrants who naturalize are more likely to learn English and to plan to remain in the US, explaining their higher incomes. Canada has a shorter three-year path from immigrant to citizenship, in part to encourage immigrants to make a commitment to stay in Canada.

USCIS announced in January 2014 that over 500,000 US employers were enrolled in E-Verify, up from 11,500 in FY96 and 111,700 in FY12. In FY13, employers made over 25 million submissions on newly hired workers, and almost 99 percent of work-authorized applicants are confirmed immediately.

USCIS administers the investor visa or EB-5 program that gives immigrant visas to foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in a US business that creates or preserves at least 10 jobs. Anshoo Sethi recruited Chinese investors to invest $500,000 each in what he called the "world's first zero carbon emission platinum LEED certified" hotel and conference center in Chicago. The Securities and Exchange Commission froze the $147 million that Sethi received from the Chinese investors, ending their prospects of receiving immigrant visas.