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July 2017, Volume 23, Number 3

DHS: Removals, Exit-Entry

Apprehensions of unauthorized foreigners just inside the Mexico-US border dropped to 12,200 in March 2017; 11,100 in April 2017; and 20,000 in May 2017, the lowest levels in decades. In 2000, over 150,000 foreigners a month were apprehended. Some 118,000 foreigners were apprehended just inside US borders in the first five months of 2017, down almost 50 percent from the same period of 2016.

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Border Patrol reported that 6,023 foreigners died trying to enter the US in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas.

DHS is increasingly using surplus military equipment to monitor the Mexico-US border, including blimps and drones that act as eyes in the sky to detect foreigners seeking to enter between ports of entry, creating a "virtual wall."

The Mexican government reported that the US returned 207,000 Mexicans in 2015, down from 601,000 in 2009. In 2015, over 90 percent of the Mexicans returned were men and 15 percent had been in the US at least five years. About a quarter of the Mexican men who were returned in 2015 could speak English and had at least secondary schooling.

Those returned to Mexico in 2015 reported paying smugglers an average $4,100 to enter the US. About half of the Mexicans returned to Mexico in 2015 said they would try to re-enter the US.

The Border Patrol in FY11 implemented a Consequence Delivery System aimed at deterring Mexicans who are returned to Mexico from trying to re-enter the US. In the past, most were returned informally via voluntary return, that is, they were fingerprinted and photographed and returned to Mexico near where they were apprehended.

CDS involves returning Mexicans away from the place where they entered the US or seeking to have them formally deported or removed from the US, making illegal re-entry a felony. In FY14, about half of those apprehended were caught for the first time, and over 90 percent were subject to some type of CDS, most often charged with illegal re-entry. Only 14 percent of those who were apprehended in FY14 had been caught before in the same year (recidivists).

President Trump ended the so-called catch-and-release policy under which foreigners who applied for asylum at the Mexico-US border were released and given a date to appear in court to explain why they needed protection. Trump ordered more detention facilities and asylum officers and immigration judges to quickly determine if foreigners were in need of protection.

DHS in June 2017 announced that unauthorized parents who pay smugglers to bring their children to the US would be targeted for removal. CBP agents at the border ask children who arranged and paid for their trip, and turn this information over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

Some Central American parents pay smugglers $2,000 to $4,000 to bring their children to the US border, where they apply for asylum; 90 percent of these children were sent to live with their parents or close relatives for the typical several years until their cases were heard. Almost 70,000 unaccompanied Central American children under 18 arrived at the US border and applied for asylum since 2015.

ICE agents arrested 41,318 unauthorized foreigners in the first 100 days of the Trump administration, up 38 percent over the same period in 2016. Over three-fourths were convicted of US crimes, including 10 percent who had committed serious crimes in the US.

ICE arrests are up 40 percent since Trump became president over the previous year, and ICE has requested funding of $7.6 billion in FY 18 to deport more than 400,000 foreigners. ICE says that the number of countries refusing to accept the return of their citizens has been reduced from 23 to 12. There are 600,000 cases pending before immigration judges.

ICE wants to increase the number of beds for detainees from 34,000 to 51,000 so that those ordered deported can be located easily.

ICE created the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office (VOICE) to inform victims of crimes committed by foreigners about the status of their cases. VOICE is to have a staff of specialists in victim assistance and 21 community relations officers to "assist victims of crimes committed by criminal aliens."

Violence between two gangs linked to El Salvador, MS-13 and 18th Street, is increasing in the US. MS-13, whose motto is "kill, rape, control," is the only street gang labeled a transnational criminal organization by the US government. MS-13 leaders in prison in El Salvador allegedly direct the activities of 10,000 members in the US. Some MS-13 gang members were among the 150,000 unaccompanied Central American youth who entered the US and applied for asylum between 2014 and 2017.

Entry-Exit. The US photographs and fingerprints arriving foreigners, but has no system for recording exits. Congress has several times ordered DHS to develop an entry-exit tracking system, but costs and other issues blocked implementation.

DHS believes that most new unauthorized foreigners arrive legally and overstay or violate the terms of their visas. DHS wants to mount cameras at airport departure gates and photograph persons boarding planes, but wants airlines to operate the cameras. The airlines are resisting, arguing that since exit tracking is a DHS responsibility, DHS should operate the cameras.

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 at least 10 US jobs. So-called regional centers match foreigners, 80 percent Chinese, with US projects that need investments in exchange for payments from both would-be immigrants and developers. In FY16, over 14,000 foreigners applied for EB-5 visas; there is a backlog of 20,000 applications.

Many Chinese investors in US projects say they want immigrant visas so their children can attend US schools. With legislation pending to raise the minimum investment to $1.35 million or more, and rules to restrict investments in real estate projects, more Chinese are rushing to invest before regulations are tightened.

DHS delayed the International Entrepreneur Rule until March 2018 that would have allowed up to 3,000 foreigners who had raised $250,000 from US investors or received $100,000 or more in government grants to enter the US for up to 30 months.

TPS. Some 58,000 Haitians who were in the US legally or illegally when a January 2010 earthquake ravaged their country have had Temporary Protected Status over the past seven years. In May 2017, the Trump administration extended Haitian TPS by six months. Nationals of 13 countries had TPS in May 2017, including El Salvador and Honduras. (www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/temporary-protected-status)

Leaders of these countries in June 2017 asked the Trump administration to extend TPS for their citizens so that they can work legally in the US and send home remittances. The Guatemalan government has asked that its citizens in the US be granted TPS.

Saipan. In March 2017, a Chinese worker died while building a casino in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, for a firm linked to Donald Trump, prompting an FBI raid that found hundreds of unauthorized Chinese workers. Recruiters associated with the Chinese contractors building the casino were charged with harboring unauthorized (hei gong) workers, promising them high wages and US immigrant visas but sometimes absconding without paying any wages, justifying non-payments by citing recruitment fees.

Foreign workers are half of all workers on Saipan, and they must be paid at least $6.55 an hour. Many arrive as tourists on group tours and stay in Saipan and work. Saipan's special guest worker program is to be phased out in 2019.

Imperial Pacific International, which owns the Saipan casino, is suspected of money laundering. Its small Saipan casino generates more gambling revenue than any other casino worldwide.