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October 2016, Volume 22, Number 4

DHS: Deportations, Refugees

India and China surpassed Mexico as the leading sources of foreign-born residents in 2014. Some 136,000 Indians arrived, 128,000 Chinese, and 123,000 Mexicans, both legal and illegal. An estimated 82,000 Central Americans arrived in 2014.

Pew estimated that there were 11.1 million unauthorized foreigners in the US in 2014, including 5.9 million or 53 percent Mexicans, followed by 1.7 million Central Americans and 1.4 million Asians.

The US Border Patrol apprehended about 400,000 foreigners just inside the Mexico-US border in FY 16, an average of 33,000 a month and up from 331,000 in FY15. In FY14, there were 479,400 apprehensions, with a peak 60,700 in May 2014.

FY16 apprehensions included almost 60,000 unaccompanied children under 18, up from 40,000 in FY15 but below the peak 68,400 in FY14. Most are from Central America, and many have parents and relatives in the US. Some 75,000 mothers with children were apprehended in FY16, more than the previous record of 68,445 in FY14. Most were Central Americans who are seeking asylum in the US.

About half of the asylum applications are filed affirmatively, meaning that foreigners apply before they are in deportation proceedings. After waiting at least 180 days for a decision, asylum applicants can receive one-year work permits. In October 2016, DHS announced that after 180 days asylum applicants can receive two-year work permits, citing a backlog of applications.

Deportations. DHS removed 2.7 million unauthorized foreigners during Obama's eight-year presidency, including some apprehended just inside US borders, more than were deported during all of the 20th century, 2.5 million. The number of foreigners deported peaked at 410,000 in FY12, and deportations of foreigners convicted of US crimes peaked at 199,000 in FY13.

Deportations fell to 235,400 in FY15, including 40 percent who were convicted of US crimes.

DHS has the capacity to detain about 32,000 foreigners. However, an upsurge of Haitians entering the US from Mexico increased detentions to 42,000 in October 2016. Another 60,000 foreigners in the US are required to wear monitoring devices.

Republican Donald Trump promised a deportation force to remove the 11 million unauthorized foreigners in the US, but in August 2016 shifted the focus to foreigners convicted of US crimes. Trump says there are about two million foreigners in the US who have been convicted of US crimes and are subject to deportation. Many are still in the US because countries such as China refuse to accept the return of citizens convicted of US crimes.

During the search for foreigners convicted of violent US crimes, other unauthorized foreigners are often encountered. If they are deported, advocates complain that "innocent unauthorized" are removed. The Obama administration has told agents to avoid deporting the innocent unauthorized, a restriction that Trump says he would remove.

Trump called for an end to federal aid to sanctuary cities that bar their police from informing DHS of suspected unauthorized foreigners. Under Secure Communities, DHS received fingerprints from every person arrested by state and local police so that it could place detainers on suspected unauthorized foreigners. In response, some 300 cities and counties enacted ordinances that prohibit police from cooperating with DHS, making them sanctuary cities.

New York and San Francisco are sanctuary cities. In summer 2015, San Francisco released an unauthorized foreigner who had been deported five times and who killed Kathryn Steinle after being released from a local jail.

Arizona's attorney general in September 2016 clarified SB 1070 to say that police can ask about immigration status during a traffic stop or criminal investigation, but may not extend a detention or arrest to determine legal status. The nonbinding guidance instructs police not to arrest persons because they lack proper IDs. The attorney general opinion settled a suit brought by the ACLU in 2010 after SB 1070 was enacted.

Refugees. The US admitted the 10,000th Syrian refugee in August 2016, a month before the end of FY16, bringing the total to 12,000 Syrian refugees admitted since 2012. The US admitted a total of 85,000 refugees in FY15, with the leading countries of origin Myanmar, Iraq and Somalia. There are 150,000 Syrian-born US residents, and some of those admitted in 2016 were resettled near Syrian enclaves. The US plans to resettle 85,000 refugees in FY16.

Unlike other newcomers, refugees are eligible for eight months of federal means-tested assistance, receiving cash and food assistance as well as health insurance. The nine voluntary agencies that resettle refugees stress the importance of finding jobs and becoming self-sufficient but, even after a decade in the US, refugees are twice as likely to receive food stamps as US-born residents, suggesting that they have a hard time achieving above poverty-level incomes. The federal government spends about $1 billion a year on refugee resettlement; voluntary agencies say they spend an equal amount.

EB-5. The EB-5 program grants immigrant visas to foreigners and their families who invest at least $500,000 in a targeted employment area with high unemployment that creates or preserves at least 10 jobs. About 95 percent of EB-5 investments are made via regional centers, some of which have been linked to fraud, prompting calls to reform the EB-5 program or abolish the program.

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