A Look at Total Immigration Issues and the Effects on American Society
Gateways to the American Experience
Canada and Mexico have always been considered good neighbors by the United States. In the absence of an immediate threat from the North or South, our country has benefited from a unique geographical advantage, allowing it the opportunity to experiment with the idea of democracy. The U.S. is a representative democracy, given American political views range from liberal to progressive, to moderate, to conservative, our elected representatives face enormous challenges when interpreting and implementing the laws which guarantee equal protection for all.
Today illegal immigration ranks as one of the top concerns in the United States. As we all strive to find a solution, a mix of truths, fears, and propaganda from the left and the right have created a wedge infiltrating our core values and threatening to collapse the very bridges which unite us.
For some, immigrants seem to threaten the very idea of American Exceptionalism. For others, immigrants seem to validate the idea of American Exceptionalism. Current talks of building a wall prove to be controversial not just for a vast number of American citizens but for our neighboring countries as well.
Most Americans agree that protecting our borders is crucial to maintaining law and order, democracy and freedom, and the right to preserve our way of life. However, it is the “how” to accomplish the above which is driving politicized movements ever closer to the brink of social unrest.
Let us shine a light on the entire picture so we may decipher whether fear is a proper reaction for Americans to the problem of illegal immigration, or if illegal immigration is a genuine threat to American sovereignty and security.
The Journey to Becoming an Illegal Immigrant
For many illegal immigrants, the dangerous journey begins on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande. Migrants from Latin American, Asia, Africa, and many other impoverished countries cross the southern border into the United States at the hand of smugglers known as Coyotes.
Coyotes transport anywhere from five to twenty migrants up to four times a week. They use cell phones to coordinate a network of trucks, hideouts, bribes to authorities, and payoffs to drug cartels. The Cartels “In Reynosa and the surrounding state of Tamaulipas, the Gulf Cartel controls the border. Los Zetas control regions to the west.” (1) Cartel members monitor how many crosses over and demand pay accordingly.
The migrant’s relatives in the United States pay anywhere from $7,000 to $10,000 for the trip. Many migrants fall prey as Coyotes are sometimes, “con artists…extortionists who in the end don’t take you where you want to go.” (1)
The Coyote business requires extensive contacts along Mexico’s southern borders with Guatemala and Belize, where the market begins. As one of their duties, they prepare the migrants psychologically warning them to be silent, to eat as much as possible, and to be well hydrated before the trip. Coyotes also familiarize migrants with the Rio Grande’s unstable soil and thick vegetation and warn them never to identify them to U.S. authorities.
Once they cross the border, groups head to a designated road at predetermined destinations. Usually along border cities in California, Texas, and Arizona. They are then picked up by trucks and are taken to safe houses. Allegedly, some ranchers in Texas along the border allow migrants to cross on foot and rest for a few hours. Many families choose to be detained by U.S. authorities after they cross the border because they want to apply for asylum. Others want to avoid detection so they can continue their trip and find work somewhere.
“Ramon,” a coyote interviewed by Univision, reveals there are several ways to cross over through border patrol barriers. He claims there is some corruption on the part of U.S. Border Patrol agents who accept bribes and allow migrants through border controls. He claims to sometimes use passports with U.S. visas which are sold by their owners to criminal networks. (1)
Why do so many Illegal Immigrants Risk danger and deportation?
Presently, the majority of illegal immigrants come from the so-called “Northern Triangle” countries of Central America: Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Mainly due to an epidemic of violent crime and lawlessness in the region. Cities in the Northern Triangle and Mexico have the highest number of criminal violence in the world. The majority of migrants have no jobs and are fleeing unimaginable poverty; others are escaping the constant fear of war and misery at the hands of criminals.
According to the World Bank, the named countries have high percentages of children suffering from chronic malnutrition. The people have no faith in governments which operate a corrupt system and offer no protection. Due to these extreme circumstances, the migrants risk all, including separation from their children, and possibly losing their lives for the hope of a better future. Citing these examples, many illegal immigrants prefer to live in hiding rather than in the constant hunger and fear they encounter in their homeland.
The reality is most migrants are not targets of ethnic, political, or religious prosecution. They are fleeing poverty, crime, and corrupt governments which makes them ineligible for asylum. Offering amnesty to those may not be the answer to the problem as it only encourages and escalates the migration crisis. The paradox—is to enforce U.S. laws as it is what separates America from the lawless countries migrants are fleeing so it may be essential to deport families, even when accompanied by minors because they are in violation of our immigration laws, therefore, not necessarily meriting liberation.
Exploring how to best use our resources to support countries producing the most migrants is a step towards finding an effective solution. Perhaps the global community can serve such countries by agreeing to long-term commitments to ease their circumstance. Promoting financial and technical assistance programs and supporting key International organizations like the World Food Program and the World Health Organization is not enough. The outflow of migrants from these countries will continue until real economic and social progress is achieved in their homeland.
Restoring order and progress in such countries may require the removal of self-serving leaders whom in many circumstances block their citizens from receiving any form of aid. For example, in the case of Venezuela, millions of citizens fled the country while some stayed and embarked in a civil war, at the cost of many civilian lives, to remove Nicolas Maduro from power.
Since January 2019, their fight is rewarded as, “The U.S., Canada, and more than 30 other countries have now recognized Venezuela’s opposition leader, Juan Guaido as the interim President.”(2) An important step in energizing the movement against Madura, whom Venezuelans blame for fraudulently taking office and responsible for the economic and political disaster in current times.
Contrary to Venezuela, Cuba, despite U.S. sanctions, has endured the Castro regime since it sustained power in 1959. The Sanctions impoverished the Cuban people, villainized the U.S. allowing the spread of Communism, and triggered sixty years of Cuban migration to the U.S.
Enforcing the Immigration and Reform Act of 1986
The Immigration and Reform Act of 1986 was created after the U.S. recognized that illegal immigrants take on the journey mainly in search of work. If it became impossible for illegal immigrants to obtain employment here, regardless of how they entered, a wall would serve little purpose as their incentive would be eliminated. The Reform Act requires non-citizen job applicants to prove their legal right to work in the United States. However, the legislation does not require employers to verify the authenticity of identity documents through the federal government, rendering the law virtually ineffective.
Vote for E-Verify Program
To verify the authenticity of the documents The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 created a voluntary system of document verification, known as E-verify. However, there is no legal requirement for employers to authenticate and verify obtained documents. This led many to use counterfeit documents to attain work. The Senate, to address this problem, passed an immigration reform bill in 2013 which included provisions for a mandatory E-verify program.
However, “Republicans in the House refused to allow a vote on the bill.” (3) This was in part due to pressure from Farm lobby protecting Agricultural interest groups who rely on illegal immigrant workers. (5) They pushed for their workers to attain legal status while remaining in the U.S., rather than leaving for a year during the legal process. This created opposition since it would represent a loophole for those seeking amnesty. Others oppose E-verify because they claim it places the burden of immigration enforcement on employers and it violates privacy laws.
January 2019, the Trump administration indicated support for the concept of mandatory E-verify, even designating 23 million dollars for this purpose in his proposed 2019 budget. Again, mandatory E-verify program was not made a priority, although polls show 80 percent public support for the idea.
Proponents of E-Verify say enforcing the document verification system could eliminate the need to hire additional Border Patrol agents, Customs and Border Protection agents, or even build a wall. They further say the plan is not only simple, but it also matches our values and national interest. It is claimed that the plan could save the U.S. an estimated 21 billion dollars on a wall construction bill and possibly free up resources that could be used to address the humanitarian crisis in Central America.
Education as a Deterrent
As an immediate step towards a solution, some believe educating migrants on the reality and the danger of the journey might scare a few away from the idea of illegally crossing the border. To this purpose, a theme park in Mexico called Parque EcoAlberto; The Eco Alberto Park was designed to deter illegal migration by offering a taste of the illegal migrant experience. It informs people about the danger which lurks everywhere for the illegal migrant.
Dangers such as unscrupulous coyotes that steal and don’t live up to their end of the agreement. Too, they show that children and women are at risk of becoming victims of human trafficking and sex slaves. Education seeks to explain the dangers of armed bandits, gang shootings, police sirens, incarceration, and deportation. Also, they show non-human risks in that wildlife is predatory, that snakes and wolves can kill as you walk through the darkness of night. The education even covers the terrain dangers; how plants such as the cactus can pinch through a finger and possible death and injury from the mountainside cliffs and the unstable bridges.
The aim is to utilize as many means as possible to create awareness and lower the number of hundreds of victims who die yearly from attempting the journey. A seemingly low effort but that in combination with the political times as it relates to illegal migration has prompted the migrants to slow down by 40% less than 2016.
A Wall Along the U.S.- Mexico Border to Stretch from Sea to Sea?
Building the wall has proved to be politically challenging. The question of how much will be funded and built is yet to be answered. High political tensions between the republicans and the democrats in our congress have prolonged the negotiation process.
The wall is also logistically difficult. The Department of Homeland Security has not yet decided in favor of a solid concrete wall or a see-through barrier. Border security experts affirm a barrier is not necessary along the whole border, and most prefer a see-through barrier to allow for a better visual. DHS has revealed that the first 14 miles of the wall will be raised near Imperial Beach and Chula Vista in the San Diego area and stretched westward, deep into the Pacific Ocean.
Homeland Security Secretary, John F. Kelly believes the administration’s executive orders to enforce immigration laws are proving fruitful as fewer immigrants are now trying to cross illegally. The number apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol dropped in 2017 as compared to 2016.
Ronald Colburn, president of the Border Patrol Foundation, added, “There are segments of the border where a wall is not needed, and another technology is preferred.” Most experienced border patrol agents prefer a combination of resources to secure the U.S. border. The use of technology which detects movement along unfenced areas, additional manpower, and infrastructure.
Shawn Moran, National Border Patrol Council spokesman, stated the wall will vary according to the needs of each sector and station. Currently, the pedestrian and vehicle fencing starts to the west, in San Diego and it runs eastward along the southern edges of California, Arizona, and New Mexico. There are gaps due to rough terrain which serve as natural barriers. These areas are monitored by drones, radar cameras, and personnel.
Preservation and Driving Illegals to Checkpoints
Experts believe fences or walls serve best to lead illegal crossers to areas where Border Patrol is in place. However, the barrier isn’t always practical. For instance, East of El Paso there are 1,255 miles of border where the Rio Grande and a canyon wall run several hundred feet tall. Other complication to consider. If a wall were built along the floodplain, it would inevitably cause obstruction to the flow of water. The U.S. secretary of the International Boundary and Water Commission cautioned against blocking the flow of water because it “could cause the international boundary to shift.” (5)
Local politicians, including Texas Governor Greg Abbott who supports border enforcement, opposes a wall running along national parks because the overlap of social and national boundaries between U.S. and Mexico makes it difficult to separate communities and wildlife. During the Bush Jr. administration, DHS argued against the 2006 Fence Act. Proving to Congress that different types of terrain required different kinds of fencing. DHS has since 2007, favored a virtual fence (cameras, sensors, and high-tech equipment.) to protect the 2,000-mile border.
The U.S. currently has 650 miles of various types of walls and fences along the border. Some of it to keep pedestrians from crossing, with others meant to stop vehicles. Much of the rest of the border is delineated by the Rio Grande and its canyons and bluffs. A portion of the border has been kept fence-less to protect the habitat of the last North American Jaguars, an endangered species.
In May 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions traveled to the southern border and modified deportation rules, directing federal prosecutors to prioritize over immigration cases. Consequently, the Department of Homeland Security increased the number of detention beds by 33,000 to house illegal immigrants and open discussions with local police departments.
About the Canadian Border
While the intense focus is placed on the southern border, the Canadian border receives less attention and resources. According to officials and court documents, crossings from Canada are viewed as an appealing option for illegal migrants. The smuggling business is rising as migrants are paying up to $4,000 to cross between Vermont and Quebec. The smugglers, whose methods appear to be as organized as those used in the Mexican border, are paid once the migrants reach their U.S. destination. (5)
Mexicans and citizens of many countries have not required a visa to enter Canada. The Canadian government denies its visa policy impacts the border. Pointing out the number of arrests is small by comparison to that of the U.S Southern border. Also, stating that the flow of illegal border crossers goes in both directions. It has documented an increase of thousands of immigrants from the United States seeking asylum in Canada since the Trump administration took office.
Some believe the migration rise is mainly due to President Trump signing executive order 13769, which suspended the United States Refugee Admissions Program and banned travel from seven African and Middle Eastern countries. The order initiated a movement by civil rights advocacy groups in Canada.
Civil rights advocate attorneys demanded Canada to suspend the 2004 Safe Third Country Agreement, which requires migrants to apply for asylum in the first country in which they arrive. Claiming the Agreement is the cause for the spike of asylum seekers from the U.S. into Canada. According to the Canada Border Services Agency, the upward trend became evident in 2016 after 7,000 refugee applicants entered Canada by land. A 63% increase from the previous year.
On February 7, 2017, the political climate in the U.S. proved its impact on the crusade. After the travel ban, refugees were found crossing into Canada from the U.S. on foot despite freezing temperatures. Countless numbers embarked in the life-threatening journey seeking asylum.
The Canadian border is mostly crossed by the Vermont-Quebec border. Guarding the crossing which connects the Derby Line, Vermont and Stanstead, Quebec, about 50 miles south-east of Montreal has always been challenging because it is comprised of a community where homes and buildings intersect at the international border. “This is a town with an invisible border going through it,” (6) said Stanstead resident, Matthew Farfan, who wrote, The Vermont-Quebec Border: Life on the Line.
Historically, the two villages have had a friendly cross-border relationship. They’ve even shared library services at the Haskell Free Library and Opera House. Times changed after 911, residents were prohibited from moving freely and required to report to the nearest port of entry before crossing the border. Additional measures have taken place to gain control over the crossing. Traveling between the villages now requires the use of U.S. Route 5 or I-91. In 2018, there were at least 267 apprehensions along Vermont’s border with Canada, compared with 132 in all of 2017.
Statistics for the border patrol sector which covers 300 miles of border with New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire, reported 324 apprehensions in 2018, compared to 165 in all of 2017. In June of 2018 alone, agents arrested 85 people across the three states, compared with 17 in June 2017 and 19 in June 2016. The rise prompted U.S. Customs and Border Protection to place checkpoints in Maine, New Hampshire, and upstate New York as a means to upgrade immigration restrictions.
A similar rise in irregular entries seems to be happening in Québec, British Columbia, and Ontario. Refugee advocate groups are calling on the Canadian government to increase the number of refugees Canada accepts mainly as a response to President Trump’s decision to slash the 2017 intake of refugees from 110,000 to 50,000 and to withdraw from the agreement that designates the US as a safe country for refugees.
Do Illegal Immigrants Qualify for Social Services?
8 U.S. Code § 1611. Aliens who are not qualified aliens are ineligible for Federal public benefits.
“This law prohibits illegal immigrants from receiving most federal benefits. There are some exceptions, such as emergency medical care (which includes emergency labor and delivery); short-term, non-cash emergency disaster relief; limited housing or community development assistance to those who were already receiving it since 1996; public health assistance for communicable diseases and limited immunizations and testing; and programs such as soup kitchens.” (7)
It is unclear how much these exceptions cost taxpayers. To gain perspective let’s examine the following example. According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Illegal immigration places an economic burden that may add up to $812 million by 2020 just in the state of Pennsylvania. This estimate is solely based on the cost of providing public education to children of illegal immigrants, emergency medical expenditures, and incarceration costs. (4)
There is no evidence that Congress plans to vote on legislation that would give Social Security benefits, or any Federal benefit, to illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants are, for the most part, disqualified from collecting benefits from government programs, according to U.S. Code, with only the limited exceptions stated above.
It is true that some immigrants who are here without legal permission receive Social Security and other benefits. Such is due to bureaucratic mistakes or deliberate fraud. The full extent of the fraud is unknown, but it is a serious problem. It steals from the government, it violates policy, and it fuels the misconception that it is a sanctioned practice.
Do Legal Immigrants Take more from the U.S. Government than they contribute?
“The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2017 report found that immigration ‘has an overall positive impact on the long-run economic growth in the U.S.’ Typically, new immigrants cost more than native-born citizens. However, by the second-generation, each contributes an average of $1,700 per year. All other native-born Americans, including third-generation immigrants, contribute an average of $1,300 year on average.” (7)
There are several reasons why legal immigrants are less likely to take public benefits. Most immigrants come to the U.S. in search of work. In many cases, they support their families in the U.S. and their native country. Taking public assistance is perceived negatively by migrants because it contradicts the reason why they left their homeland and family behind. Another reason is that the Social Safety Net requires proof of lawful residence for a minimum of 5 years to be eligible for any public service. Lastly, many of the legal immigrants have incomes that are too high to qualify for public assistance.
It is difficult to determine the exact cost or contribution of illegal immigrants because they are harder to survey, but the study suggests they likely have a more positive effect than their legal counterparts because they are, on average, younger and work longer hours. To clarify again, they also do not qualify for public benefits. According to the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, illegal immigrants pay an estimated 11.6 billion a year in taxes.
Cutting Public Benefits to Legal Immigrants
“Undocumented immigrants are having a hard time getting food assistance benefits for their US-born children. Parents are afraid to fight back for fear of deportation and potentially separation from their children.” (8)
Limiting Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Programs, health, and education benefits for children of illegal immigrants can have a long-term negative impact on the U.S. For example, in the case of public education for the children of illegal immigrants. Educating children can have economic benefits in the future because it would allow them to get better-paying jobs and offer more significant contribution by paying higher taxes.
Do Illegal Immigrants take American jobs?
Hard working Americans fear that illegal immigrants are taking advantage of employment resources and depleting social services at the expense of hardworking taxpayers’ monies.
The Trump administration claim is that “Illegal immigration hurts Americans workers, burdens American taxpayers and undermines public safety, and places enormous strains on local schools, hospitals, and communities in general, taking precious resources away from the poorest Americans who need them most.” (9)
The U.S. workforce includes 7.8 million illegal immigrants, a number which has steadily declined since 2007, comprising 17 percent of the U.S. labor force.
Employers in many industries reap the advantages of hiring illegal immigrants; They are more likely to work unusual hours than U.S.-born workers. According to data from the American Community Survey and Bureau of Statistics, they are also more likely to be employed in dangerous jobs, and they accept low wages. Overall, American employers are the beneficiaries of the low-skill services that immigrants provide as housemaids, nannies, janitors, landscapers, cooks, home health aides, and in other types of labor intense jobs. This may all come at the expense of displacing American born workers from large segments in various industries while exploiting the disadvantages which naturally accompany illegal workers.
Legal immigrants work low-level positions mainly because they are on average less educated than native-born Americans. About 26 % have less than a high school degree, compared to 5 % of native-born workers, according to the Urban Institute. One in three immigrant workers has a college or advanced degree, a rate on par with Americans born here. Unauthorized immigrants tend to have slightly lower education levels; about 13 percent have college degrees.
President Trump targeted the H-1B visa program as one of his efforts towards reforming the current system to favor the American worker. He claimed the H-1B allows for cheaper foreign labor and drives down wages. In contrast, the tech industry believes the H-1B program encourages students to stay in the U.S. after getting degrees in high-tech specialties. Cushioning the shortage of American workers with the skills needed. The Administration then included offering H-1B visas only to the highest skilled applicants.
The latest jobs report shows the U.S. economy performing strongly enough that it can absorb large numbers of workers, including immigrants. In the case of H-1B, losing skilled workers would hurt the U.S. and help the sending country. After offering an education in the U.S., then gifting the high-skilled worker to their country of origin.
Does the U.S. Economy need Immigrants?
Immigrants are vital to offset the falling birth rate in the U.S. According to the World Bank there are 1.8 births per woman, down from 3.65 in 1960. Demographers consider 2.1 births per woman as the rate needed to replace the existing population. This low birth rate causes the workforce to shrink, resulting in less contribution towards social security, further troubling it’s dwindling budget.
In Japan where the population is shrinking, and the country does not attract new immigrants there is a shortage in the workforce, causing the economic growth to become stagnate. Immigrants not only add numbers to the workforce but they also increase the demand for goods and services, which boosts economic growth.
Would it be Better for the Economy if Illegal Immigrants’ Children were Not Citizens?
“The goal of many birthright citizenship laws was to create equal citizenship rights for those who were already present in a country. Before the 20th century, global levels of discrimination were quite high. Slavery was legal in most areas of the world. Minorities were placed at a great disadvantage. The goal of birthright citizenship laws was to ensure that future generations, not illegal immigrants, could benefit from the hard work their parents put in to establish a life for their family.” (10)
Today, the law has been applied in unintended ways. It is believed that Birthright citizenship encourages illegal immigrants to give birth in the U.S. “anchoring” allowing them to manipulate and, therefore, qualify for family social rights and financial benefits. Reasoning that without such protection, parents may be deported leaving children at the hands of foster care, thereby, creating social problems in many communities.
It is a controversial topic because repealing Birthright citizenship could have significant negative consequences as it takes away the rights from children. Considering as citizens, they may grow to offer a positive impact on the U.S. economy. Citizenship allows for higher economic opportunity, relying less on government assistance. A Migration Policy Institute analysis estimates that the number of illegal immigrants would increase from 11 million to 16 million by 2050 if birthright citizenship were repealed. Resulting in a population that remains cut off from the rest of society due to fear of deportation or inability to find work.
Changes in Trends
Apprehensions on the Southwest border peaked in 2000 at 1.64 million and have generally declined since totaling 303,916 in 2017 and rising slightly to 396,579 in 2018. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported a 76% decline in the number of apprehensions between the peak in 2000 and 2018. (10)
As border apprehensions have declined, estimates show a growing proportion of the illegal population has legally entered the country on visas but overstayed the time limits on those visas.
A Center for Migration Studies Report estimates that 44% of those living in the U.S. illegally in 2015 were visa overstays. Representing a 41% increase since 2008. 65% of the net arrivals from 2008 to 2015 joined the illegal population by visa overstays. This translates to an estimated 629,000 people on visas who were expected to leave in 2016 hadn’t done so by the end of that year. That number, however, had declined to about 606,926 by January 2017 at a rate of 1.15 % of the expected departures. The Department of Homeland Security released a report on August 7, 2018, which calculated a total overstay rate of 1.33% or 701,900 overstays. (11)
Families Crossing the Border
In 2013, the U.S. began to record data on the number of family units apprehended at Border Crossings. Customs and Border Protection recorded 14,855 people. In 2014, the numbers were significantly higher at 68,445. However, it seems to continuously fluctuate as there was a drop in 2015 to 39,838, before increasing once again in 2016 to 77,674. The figure was similar in 2017, and it went up in 2018, to 107,212.
Unaccompanied Children from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico
The number of children under age 18 apprehended crossing the border without a parent or legal guardian fluctuates. In 2013, 17,240. In 2015 had 15,616. In the first 6 months of 2016, there were over 27, 000. Peaking by the end of 2016 with a 78% increase. By 2018, the number was 50,036. (19)
In 2014, the Obama administration dealt with a surge of 68,541 unaccompanied minors on the Southwest border, primarily due to those fleeing violence and poverty in the “Northern Triangle.”
In 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement confirmed 11,800 children in shelters, of which 2,047 separated from their parents and 9,753 had crossed the border without a parent or legal guardian. In 2018 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “removed” 2,711 who were traveling in families and 5,571 unaccompanied children.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement program houses the children in about 100 shelters in 14 states. Health and Human Services reported in 2018 children had spent an average of 57 days in such shelters before being placed with a sponsor, who could be a parent, another relative or a non-family member.
About 80% or more of the unaccompanied children referred to Health and Human Services over the last several years have been age 13 and older, and about 90 % or more have been from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
Number of Border Patrol Agents
Over two decades ago, in 1992, there were a mere 4,139 Border Patrol Agents. By the year 2000, when apprehensions peaked at 1.64 million, with a total of 8,580 agents assigned to the border with Mexico. The number of agents peaked in 2011 at 21,444. Since then it has declined. By 2017 a total of 19,437 of which 16,605 worked the Southwest Border, apprehended a total of 303,916.
The Number of Illegal Migrants Deported Each Year
The Department of Homeland Security says 340,056 people were “removed” or deported from the U.S. in 2016. There are also “returns,” which are “inadmissible or deportable” immigrants who leave voluntarily before a formal removal order is issued. Returns totaled 106,167 that year.
In 2018, there were 256,000 of which 145,262 were convicted criminals, 22,796 had criminal charges pending against them, 5,872 reported as suspected gang members, and 42 were considered terrorist.
ICE reported the Obama administration has the highest deportation numbers, peaking in 2012, 409,849 removals, averaging over 250,000 every year respectively.
The peak for combined removals and returns was 1.86 million in fiscal 2000. The same year when apprehensions peaked on the Southwest border. Statistics show that generally, when apprehensions are higher, so, too, are removals and returns. Since 2011, removals have been higher each year than returns. Before that, the reverse was true.
Homeland Security statistics show a consistent decline in apprehensions along the Mexican border for the last 20 years. Apprehensions topped out at more than 1.6 million in 2000 and sinking to around 300 thousand in 2017. (9) By 2017 66% of illegal immigrants in the U.S. have lived here for over ten years, compared to 41% in 2007. 18% have been here for less than five years.
Border arrest and Repeat Offenders
Overall, illegal border crossings have been declining for nearly two decades, and in the 2017 fiscal year, border crossing apprehensions were at their lowest point since 1971. However, in 2018 annual apprehensions did increase by 30 percent from the previous year. (10)
Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested more than 158,000 people most who were convicted criminals with an immigration violation, DUI, and trafficking offenses. (17) Customs and Border Patrol stated 10% of those apprehended in 2017 were caught more than once that year. In 2016, it was 12 percent.
Criminal Data on Illegal Immigrants
In 2017, the State Department stated there was, “no credible information that any member of a terrorist group has traveled through Mexico (southern border) to gain access to the United States.”(26) As a response to Vice-President Pence’s claim, “Nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists were apprehended attempting to come into the United States through various means in the last year,(2018)” As a statement meant to clarify the majority of the 4,000 entered the U.S. by air.
Mexican Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco New Generation Cartel, are the principal wholesale drug sources for domestic gangs responsible for street-level distribution. In 2017, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl were involved in nearly 30,000 deaths, and from 2016-2017, Mexican heroin production grew by 37 percent. Mexican cartels continue to make large quantities of cheap methamphetamine and deliver it to the United States through the Southern border. Seizures at the border increased from 8,900 pounds in 2010 to nearly 82,000 in 2018.
Out of the Bureau of Prisons’ total inmate population of 183,058 in the first quarter of the 2018 fiscal year, 21 percent were immigrants, both legal and illegal according to a government report. At least 13 percent of the total population, or 23,826 inmates, were in the country unlawfully. The immigration status of another 11,698 inmates was under investigation, while 2,608 inmates were lawful immigrants or had received relief from deportation.
The most common crimes committed by these immigrants were drug-related offenses (46 %) and immigration offenses (29%).
Where do Illegal Immigrants Come from and Where Do They Live?
In 2007, Mexican illegals peaked at 12.2 million making up 57% of the total unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. and 4% of the total U.S. population. By 2016, there had been a 13% decline with 10.7 million Mexican illegals in the U.S., representing 50 % of all unauthorized immigrants and 3.3% of the total U.S. population. (11)
Meanwhile, from the Northern Triangle nations of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras the number of unauthorized immigrants has grown from 1.5 million in 2007 to nearly 1.9 million in 2016.
The totals went down over the 2007-2016 period from South America and the combined region of Europe plus Canada. The remaining areas (the Caribbean, Asia, Middle East-North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of the world) did not change significantly in that time.
Statistics show that 58% of illegal immigrants live in California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois.
Past, Present and Future
Historically, an immigrants’ perilous pilgrimage to becoming part of the magnificent American dream was a thing of folklore. The United States represented a beacon of hope to inspirited explorers who envisioned a story whose plot offered nothing more than the opportunity to work and build a peaceful life for themselves and their families.
Today, American citizens are forced to take a stand on whether or not the gates to the land of opportunity can remain open. It is crucial that we take on the enormous task of conscientiously deciphering if the millions who continue their incessant surge are dreamers, criminals, or opportunists.
One thing most Americans agree on is that the time to protect what we’ve built is now. To this end, we must carefully scavenger through mountains of propaganda to find objective information, or at least that which resonates with our personal values and formulate a stand based not on fear but on education and truth. One that is honest and driven by a desire to make America indeed great again. Not an easy task, given the passionate nature of the subject.
See also: Ingrid’s article on the Opioid Crisis in America: Healers or Dealers
1. Bonmatí, Damià S. “A Day in the Life of a Coyote: Smuggling Migrants from Mexico to the United States.” Univision, 21 Dec. 2016, www.univision.com/univision-news/immigration/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-coyote-smuggling-migrants-from-mexico-to-the-united-states.
2. Dangerfield, Katie. “U.S. Military Threat in Venezuela Could Help Maduro, Experts Say: ‘Trump Is Not Helping.’” Global News, Global News, 7 Feb. 2019, globalnews.ca/news/4929952/us-military-threat-donald-trump-venezuela-help-maduro/.
3. Kupfer, Theodore. “Where Is the Push for E-Verify?” National Review, National Review, 9 Jan. 2019, www.nationalreview.com/2018/01/immigration-negotiations-everify-missing/.
4. “Illegal Immigration and Its Effects on Society and the Economy.” Federation for American Immigration Reform, www.fairus.org/legislation/illegal-immigration-and-its-effects-society-and-economy.
5. “Why Trump’s Wall Won’t Stretch ‘from Sea to Shining Sea.’” The Washington Post, WP Company, www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/100-days-wall/?utm_term=.79b351f1a54f.
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