On Monday, June 25, 2012, the Supreme Court struck down most parts of Arizona’s immigration law aimed at curbing illegal immigration. However, the court let stand a controversial provision that allows police to check someone’s legal status to stay in this country if they reasonably suspect when enforcing other laws. With a 5-3 split, the court upheld the federal government’s authority to set immigration policies and law. The Supreme Court also found that “The National Government has the significant power to regulate immigration.”
The critics say that leaving the door open to check once legal status to stay in this country violates personal rights and opens the door for racial profiling. The Governor of Arizona said that law will go into effect immediately allowing the provision to check one’s status to stay in this country while enforcing other laws such as traffic violations. The Governor further indicated that law enforcement in Arizona have been adequately trained on the subject.
The Arizona state government enacted the law in April 2010 and has been under legal challenge by the Federal government until the Supreme Court decision. The President indicated that the opening allowed by the recent decision will lead to racial profiling by the police.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the Department Homeland Security implements the Secure Communities program. This program has been created to quickly identify and deport illegal immigrants who commit serious crimes. To date, 44 States are participating in the program. Under the program fingerprints of anyone arrested by the police are checked against the data bases maintain by the FBI (which is a routine procedure) and the data base maintain by the Department of Homeland Security which holds information of all foreign-born personals living in the U.S.
Under the program, agents are instructed to accelerate deportation of illegals who commit a serious crime. The ICE expects to broaden the program to cover the entire nation by next year.
A recent review of the program by the Inspector General’s office credits the program for rapidly identifying the criminals with a very low cost to states. However, the ICE indicates that the program has led to confusion and resistance by some localities and opting to get out of the program. The Inspector General and the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security are working together to clean up some missteps taken by each agency.
The Department of Homeland Security will release a new rule for public comments shortly dealing with immediate family members of a legal citizen who are living in the U.S. illegally. Current regulation requires such family members to leave the country and wait outside the U.S. until their request for permanent residency paperwork processed that takes a longer time. The proposal will allow the family members to remain in U.S. and shorten the processing time. They will still be required to briefly leave the country and reenter after obtaining permanent visa. The new rule will affect one million of the 11 million illegals estimated to be living in the U.S. The current administration is using its executive power to change the procedure rather than changing the law to address the time and location of family members.
The administration’s previous failed attempt, the Dream Act, would have created a path for citizenship for children of illegal immigrants who attend college.
The current procedures restrict those who overstayed their visa for over six months entering the country again for three years and those who over stayed more than a year will not be allowed to enter the country for ten years.
In order to curb the influx of illegal border crossings especially those who are coming to the US from the Central America and claiming refugee status, the government is introducing a new program called “in-country processing.” It is intended to stop dangerous journey of children and others from Central America and help with legitimate claims of persecution and violence. Will it work?
The US has experienced an influx of children during last spring and summer from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala risking their lives through Mexico to reach the US. The idea is to discourage people taking the risky journey. However, many are not convinced that the new program will make sweeping changes. One requirement for the program is for those who are seeking refugee status in the US should have relatives who are legal immigrants. Children who are seeking humanitarian status may have a hard time with the requirement. With illegal immigration from Mexico slowing down, smugglers will look for Central Americans and that will create more pressure for more crossings. Staying in the home country while the US is processing claims may also create additional hardships for would be refugees. The latest numbers show illegal crossings at the southern border reaching more than 50,000 a year.
Under President Obama, deportation of illegal immigrants with a criminal history increased substantially. Many of the deportees came from Mexico and the Central America and now they are making big headaches for their home countries. Murder, crime and violence are escalating, countries are experiencing high homicide rates, and as a result more and more Central Americans especially from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala are fleeing their countries and entering the United States illegally. Authorities see more than 50 percent increases in illegal border crossings. These countries are unable to stop crime and violence within their boundaries and most criminal activity go unpunished. Judicial systems in these countries are badly in need of funding as well as overhauling.
Many pushed out of their countries due to increasing crime, violence, murder and gang activity are claiming asylum due to “fear of returning.” The US is facing huge increases in cost to keep them in prisons. The US Government provides more than $130 million a year to Mexico and Central America to improve regions security efforts. It appears that the sum is getting smaller every year. An increase in funding could help to break the vicious cycle of illegal immigration and crime.
This is an update to our last month’s column on children crossing the southern border illegally. The administration is under lot of pressure to address the growing crisis and unaccompanied children are still keeps coming. Since last October, more than 52,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended by authorities, the US Department of Homeland Security reveals. It has become a humanitarian crisis and the Congress is under pressure to address much larger issue of illegal immigration. Overcrowded detention centers are being replaced by makeshift warehouses to house children.
Why they are still keeps coming? Two major reasons are economic hardships and violence in their native countries. One of the most recent developments to cause number of children from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to cross the US border is the rise of gang and drug related violence in their home countries. Some of the early illegal immigrants were allowed to stay in the US without the fear of prosecution or deportation, and that led partly to increase the number of illegal border crossing. The US has one of the lengthy processes for deportation of illegals. To some extent, illegal smugglers are also promoting the crossing to take advantage of the situation.
Early signs of a pending humanitarian crisis are seen at the southern border of the United States. Children travelling unaccompanied by their parents or guardians from Central America are crossing the Southern border to enter the country. This trend started last year but acceleration is taking place within last few months. They are coming from Central American countries including Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and taking the risky journey through Mexico by bus, train and other means to enter the US. This process risks young lives to sex trafficking and other abuses. Majority of them are believed to be smuggled by “coyotes” who are charging more than $10,000 per child. Once they cross the border they are waiting to be picked up by the border authorities and early reports indicates that the US government is struggling to provide adequate shelter and diligently process their claims. Some argue that this new wave of illegal immigration caused by the current policies of the government that provide a safe haven for those children who enter the country illegally. Many believe that families are sending their kids to US to escape violence, gangs and poverty in their own country. Some are crossing illegally to meet their families already living in the US.
California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill in October 2013 making it harder to deport an undocumented immigrant. The Trust Act signed into law in California limit the state’s cooperation with the Federal authorities especially with Federal government’s Secure Communities (S Comm) program. Under the program, the Federal government can access finger prints taken by local police to determine a detainee’s legal status and request local law enforcement agencies to hold the individual if found to be undocumented. Under the Trust Act, police officers in California are prohibited from helping and cooperating with deportation of undocumented immigrants by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Some argue that the law violates Federal statues but the California Attorney General think the law is advisory not mandatory and therefore, does not violate any Federal law.
Is California attempting to force the Congress to take immigration issue? Immigration activists think so. They have been pushing for the Trust Act ever since the Federal government introduced the Secure Communities program in 2012. Some 20 years ago California had strict regulations cracking down undocumented immigrants requiring deportations and since that time the State changed its course mainly due to the influence of its large Latino community and Democratic governors.
President Obama’s policy decision to allow work permits for undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country by their parents not only stopped deportation of them but also allowed a two-year work permit that can be renewed indefinitely. In order to be eligible, one required to be lived in the US for continuously for at least for five years, came into the country before their 16th birthday, have not committed any crimes, completed high school or obtain a GED equivalent, or served in or currently serving in the military. However, the new policy doesn’t provide a path to US citizenship.
Since the adoption of the Band-Aid policy, known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services starting to charge a fee of $465 per application starting on August 15, 2012. Data is trickling very slowly to indicate how the program is working. Initially the program expected 1.09 million applications but the available data indicates only 567,563 applications were received within the first three months of the program. The fee charged to file an application as well as lack of outreach has been cited as reasons for slow progress of the program.