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July 2019, Volume 25, Number 3


DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned in April 2019. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan became acting DHS secretary; he can serve in an acting capacity for 210 days. DHS includes 22 agencies and 240,000 employees and has an annual budget of $40 billion.

Under the zero-tolerance policy for unauthorized entry implemented in May-June 2018, DHS separated 2,800 children from their parents and prosecuted the parents for unlawful entry. The child-separation policy was stopped after an outcry, but suits filed by migrant advocates found that more than 2,800 children were separated from parents.

US spending on border and interior immigration enforcement topped $24 billion in FY18, far more than the $18 billion spent on other federal anti-crime agencies including the FBI, DEA, and BATF. By contrast, the federal government spends $2 billion on labor standards enforcement. There are almost 79,000 federal workers doing immigration enforcement, compared to 10,000 in labor law enforcement.

CBP. Some 144,200 foreigners were apprehended just inside the Mexico-US border in May 2019, up from 109,000 in April 2019 and the most in one month since 2007. Those apprehended in May 2019 included 84,500 people traveling in family groups and 11,500 unaccompanied children.

There were 676,300 apprehensions in the first eight months of FY19. The number dropped to about 100,000 in June 2019, which may keep apprehensions below a million for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2019.

Conditions in overcrowded south Texas detention camps were described as deplorable by migrants and the DHS inspector general, drawing criticism from President Trump, who tweeted that migrants in detention "are living far better now than where they came from, and in far safer conditions."

Most of those apprehended are from Guatemala, and most had relatives in the US. Acting DHS Secretary McAleenan visited Guatemala in May 2019 and promised to send US enforcement agents to help detect and arrest smugglers.

Some 750 CBP agents were moved from inspecting incoming people and goods at ports of entry to processing Central Americans seeking asylum in the US in April 2019, leading to delays for people and freight entering the US. Border crossers complained of long wait times, and businesses complained of costly delays in moving parts and components into the US as truck-crossing times rose from two to eight hours.

ICE. President Trump in June 2019 announced that ICE would deport "millions" of unauthorized foreigners who have been issued final orders of removal by immigration judges. ICE later said that it would target 2,000 foreigners who have been ordered deported and are still in the US.

A record 409,849 foreigners were deported in FY12, and 256,000 in FY18.

At least 500,000 of the 10.5 million unauthorized foreigners in the US have been ordered deported. ICE may levy fines of $799 a day on unauthorized foreigners who have been ordered deported but are still in the US, and lower fines on foreigners who agree to leave the US voluntarily but do not. Migrants have 30 days to dispute the ICE fines after they are levied.

An analysis of ICE data found that only 11 US employers faced criminal charges for hiring unauthorized workers in the year ending in March 2019, compared with 112,000 foreigners prosecuted for illegal entry or re-entry. ICE says that its "worksite enforcement strategy focuses on the criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly hire illegal workers."

There have never been many criminal prosecutions of US employers for hiring unauthorized workers, 25 in 2009 and 20 in 2005. ICE has increased audits of the I-9 forms completed by newly hired workers and their employers, which often result in workers being dismissed from a particular employer but not removed from the US. It is often difficult for the government to prove that employers knowingly hired unauthorized workers.

Agents from the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency arrested 280 suspected unauthorized workers in April 2019 at CVE Technology Group, a cell-phone repair facility in a Dallas suburb, mostly women from Mexico and Central America. ICE's Homeland Security Investigations opened 6,850 workplace investigations in 2018, up from 1,700 in 2017.

Motel 6 in April 2019 agreed to pay $12 million to settle a state suit in Washington. Hotel clerks at seven of the 26 Motel 6 properties in the state gave ICE agents guest information without warrants. ICE detained at least nine people as a result.

USCIS. Former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli II replaced L. Francis Cissna as head of US Citizenship and Immigration Services in May 2019. Cuccinelli, who was considered for the job of immigration czar to coordinate migration policymaking across agencies from the White House, supports a wall on the Mexico-US border and constitutional changes to restrict birthright citizenship. He also urged lawsuits against employers who hire unauthorized foreigners.

USCIS officers interview asylum seekers at the border to determine if they have a "credible fear" of persecution at home that could qualify them for refugee status in the US. Many Central Americans report fleeing gang and domestic violence, which USCIS in spring 2019 instructed its officers not to consider a basis for credible fear.

Those who pass credible fear tests are usually released into the US and can get Employment Authorization Documents from USCIS 180 days after applying for asylum.

President Trump in May 2019 issued a memo requiring federal agencies to seek repayment from legal immigrants who receive means-tested services such as Medicaid, food stamps and cash payments under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Most legal immigrants are sponsored by US relatives who promise to take care of the new arrivals; the Trump memo says that federal agencies are not being aggressive enough in seeking to collect from sponsors.

The Trump Organization in April 2019 took steps to eliminate unauthorized workers from its staff by requiring temp agencies and contractors who provide landscaping services to its Florida resorts to prove that their employees were authorized to work. Some of Trump's resorts hire H-2B workers, and some employ foreigners with other visas. Trump properties around Palm Beach use Barnett Management to obtain low-skilled workers. Barnett, a division of MVP Staffing, uses E-Verify to check the legal status of new hires.

The Trump Organization's 12 golf clubs began to use E-Verify to check new hires in 2019, leading to workers who had been employed seasonally in past years dismissed in 2019. Some of the golf clubs raised wages and recruited college-age seasonal workers.