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January 2018, Volume 24, Number 1

DHS: CBP, ICE, USCIS, TPS

Kirstjen Nielsen was confirmed as secretary of DHS in December 2017, replacing John Kelly, who became Trump's chief of staff. Elaine Duke will be Deputy Secretary at DHS, which has 240,000 employees in 22 agencies and a $40 billion annual budget.

CBP. The Customs and Border Protection Agency apprehended 310,531 foreigners just inside the US border, down 24 percent from FY16 and the lowest number of apprehensions since 1971. The number of unauthorized foreigners apprehended just inside the US border reached a low of 11,700 in April 2017, but rose to 29,100 in November 2017.

Many of those apprehended are Central American parents with children (7,000 in November 2017) or unaccompanied minors (4,000) who apply for asylum. To discourage them, DHS is separating some parents from children while they wait for a court date when it is not sure if the adult is the child's parent. DHS may begin more thorough checks of parents and relatives that unaccompanied minors contact after applying for asylum.

ICE. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency arrested 143,470 foreigners inside the US in FY17, up 40 percent over FY16 and reflecting President Trump's call to arrest all unauthorized foreigners encountered when searching for foreigners convicted of US crimes.

Removals or deportations from the US were down to 226,119 in FY17, reflecting a growing backlog at immigration courts, where there are 630,000 pending cases.

During the George W. Bush administration, there were 9.3 million apprehensions, two million removals, and 8.3 million voluntary returns, usually of Mexicans caught just inside the US to Mexico. During the Obama administration, there were 5.4 million apprehensions, 3.1 million removals, and 2.2 million returns, that is, more of those apprehended just inside US borders were formally removed or deported rather than being allowed to return voluntarily to Mexico.

In Atlanta, where local law enforcement cooperates with ICE under a federal-state 287(g) agreement, immigration arrests are up almost 80 percent. Critics complain that police target Hispanic drivers for failing to signal lane changes and other minor infractions in order to detect unauthorized foreigners.

Enforcing immigration laws is a federal responsibility, but most criminal convictions are for violations of state and local laws. With ICE targeting all those convicted of US crimes, pressure is rising on governors to pardon foreigners who have served their sentences and not committed other US crimes. Foreigners convicted of US crimes who served honorably in the US military are especially likely to be pardoned.

Zurich-based Aryzta AG's Cloverhill Bakery in Chicago, which makes hamburger buns for McDonald's, lost a third of its workers after ICE audited the job-placement agency that provided its workers and found suspect documentation. Many US firms rely on temp agencies to recruit workers for them.

ICE agents arrested 21 unauthorized workers in 98 7-Eleven convenience stores in January 2018, arresting suspected unauthorized workers and deterring visits by unauthorized foreigners. ICE said that it would do more workplace inspections. Migrant advocates say that ICE raids do not persuade unauthorized workers to leave the US, but do make them afraid to report labor law violations.

The state of Washington sued Motel 6, the sixth largest US hotel chain with 110,000 rooms, for routinely sharing guest information with ICE, leading to the arrest of at least six unauthorized foreigners. Holiday Inn Express is the largest chain, with 177,000 rooms.

USCIS. Immigration lawyers say that USCIS and DOS are scrutinizing visa applications more closely, slowing the inflow of temporary workers and immigrants. Lawyers say that USCIS "requests for [additional] evidence" for employers seeking visas for H-1B workers have jumped by half. USCIS counters that it issues RFEs in 20 percent of H-1B cases, and eventually approves 90 percent of employer requests. DOS consular officials are also requesting additional evidence from applicants sponsored by US employers.

TPS. Some 325,000 foreigners from 13 countries had Temporary Protected Status in the US in January 2017. TPS, created in 1990, can be granted when a natural or other disaster strikes the country of origin of foreigners who are in the US at the time. TPS enables these foreigners to live and work legally in the US under the assumption that their remittances will help to rebuild their countries of origin.

In summer 2017, the largest group of TPS recipients was from El Salvador, 195,000 or 60 percent of all TPS residents, followed by 57,000 or 18 percent Hondurans and 50,000 or 15 percent Haitians.

DHS in November 2017 decided that 50,000 Haitians and 2,500 Nicaraguans no longer needed TPS in the US; the Haitians were given until July 2019 to leave or face deportation. In January 2018, DHS announced that Salvadorans with TPS must leave by September 2019. TPS for Sudan ended in October 2017.

Hondurans and Nicaraguans were offered TPS after Hurricane Mitch struck these countries in 1998, and Salvadorans got TPS after earthquakes in El Salvador in 2001. Critics say that two decades is too long to be "temporary." Supporters of TPS say that the US should allow those with TPS in the US a decade or more to become immigrants.

There were predictions that chaos would ensue when 200,000 Salvadorans with TPS return to El Salvador, which has a seven percent unemployment rate and gangs that extort money from the small businesses that returnees with US savings are expected to launch. Gangs are a special concern. El Salvador, which has been receiving almost $5 billion a year in remittances, had 60 murders per 100,000 people in 2017.