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October 2019, Volume 25, Number 4


American Community Survey data estimate that the US had 45 million foreign-born residents in 2018, making immigrants 13.7 percent of US residents. Almost half of these immigrants were naturalized US citizens, and a quarter were unauthorized.

Border. CBP apprehended 104,344 foreigners just inside US borders in June 2019, down 28 percent from over 144,278 in May 2019. Apprehensions fell to 94,908 in July 2018, including 42,566 family units and 5,561 unaccompanied minors, and fell further to 60,000 in August 2019.

Mexico deported 84,000 Central Americans who crossed its southern border between January and June 2019.

There are 20,000 Border Patrol agents. Most support President Trump's hard line against unauthorized migrants and drugs crossing the Mexico-US border. Agents with high school diplomas begin at $56,000 a year, and soon earn $100,000 a year with overtime pay.

Interior. About 900 foreigners with final orders of deportation were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents between May 13 and July 11, 2019. Most were convicted of US crimes.

There were a record 409,849 deportations in FY12, and 256,086 in FY18. One reason President Obama was called "deporter in chief" was because the Secure Communities program enlisted state and local police to help to identify foreigners arrested or convicted of US crimes by providing the fingerprints of persons arrested to ICE.

Secure Communities was implemented around the US between 2008 and 2013. Studies that link the number of deportations from an area to crime rates find no relationship, suggesting that deporting more unauthorized foreigners does not reduce crime.

The backlash against Secure Communities included state and local sanctuary policies that ordered police not to cooperate with ICE, so many state and local police agencies stopped providing ICE with the fingerprints of persons who were arrested and of those being released from prison. California's 2013 Trust Act prevents local authorities from holding prisoners due for release for ICE.

The Obama administration substituted the Priority Enforcement Program for Secure Communities in 2014 to focus ICE resources on the most serious foreign offenders.

In July 2019, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a federal judge's nationwide injunction that prevented the Department of Justice from awarding extra points to grant applications under the the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant program from cities that cooperate with DHS. Los Angeles applied for a COPS grant without promising to cooperate with ICE, was not successful, sued, and won at the district court level, a decision that was overturned.

ICE is stepping up audits of the I-9 forms completed by newly hired workers and their employers; over 3,000 employers were asked to submit paperwork in one week of July 2019. There were almost 6,000 I-9 audits in FY18, up from 1,400 in FY17.

USCIS. USCIS director Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II is emerging as the voice of the Trump administration on immigration. Cuccinelli, a Virginia state senator and attorney general, believes that unauthorized migration threatens US democracy by reducing respect for law.

USCIS issued regulations that allow its examiners to deny immigrant visas to foreigners who have used or are likely to use federal means-tested programs such as Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), and Section 8 housing assistance. US immigration law has long allowed authorities to deny immigration benefits to those who are or likely to become a "public charge."

In October 2019, USCIS added a requirement that relatives of US residents who are seeking immigrant visas at US consulates abroad must prove they have health insurance or the ability to pay for their health care.

USCIS said it would examine the "totality of circumstances" when adjudicating individual cases, but suggested in its 837-page regulation that receipt of means-tested benefits for more than one year in a three-year period could be disqualifying. USCIS estimated that 324,000 people in households with noncitizens would drop out or not enroll in public benefit programs as a result of the new public-charge rule.

Migrant advocates predicted that far more people would be affected. They believe that many of the 13 million legal permanent residents who have not become US citizens will not apply for federal means-tested benefits.

Studies of welfare usage agree that, when analyzed on an individual basis, a higher share of adult US citizens received federal means-tested benefits than immigrants. However, households headed by immigrants are more likely to have members who receive means-tested benefits than households headed by US citizens. In some cases, US citizen children in immigrant-headed households receive benefits.

Democratic attorneys general, asserting that immigrants would fail to use Medicaid and increase state costs to provide health care to poor residents, sued to block implementation of the implementation of the public-charge regulation. Other groups that sued to block implementation noted that most of the 266,000 comments submitted to USCIS opposed modifying the public-charge regulation.

USCIS is making it harder for asylum applicants to receive work permits. Those who enter the US illegally and apply for asylum must wait at least five months for work permits. USCIS also plans to end a requirement that asylum seekers who are eligible for work permits receive them within a month of applying. US law permits asylum seekers to work, but does not require USCIS to issue them work permits. In FY18, USCIS issued 1.8 million work permits, but did not report how many went to asylum seekers.

There is a quota of 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas available each year for foreigners and their families with outstanding skills, those sponsored by US employers, and investors. Only seven percent of employment-based immigrant visas can go to citizens of any one country, generating a backlog of a million foreigners who have qualified for immigrant visas, but are waiting for them. Two-thirds are Indians.

USCIS administers the U-visa program, enacted in 2000 to provide immigrant visas to foreign victims of US crimes who cooperate with US law enforcement. A record 63,000 foreigners applied for U-visas in FY17, but the number fell to less than 50,000 a year in FY18 and FY19. USCIS data show that, of the 22,000 applications a year that are processed, about 80 percent are approved.

There was a backlog of almost 230,000 pending applications for U-visas in summer 2019. USCIS said that it could take up to four years to process U-visa applications, during which time foreigners are not entitled to work permits and are subject to deportation.

The union representing the 400 immigration judges filed a complaint in September 2019 against the Department of Justice after DOJ considered them to be managers rather than employees. The union complained about DOJ's requirement that each judge complete at least 700 cases a year.