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.
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.
Obama Administration goes into the history book for deporting illegal immigrants more than any other previous Presidents. Deportation of illegal immigrants under the current administration stands at two million. However, there are growing pressures to slowdown the process. Where are they coming from?
Administration was hailed for its action in 2012 to halt deportation of young illegal immigrants. Instead of waiting or asking the Congress, the President used his administrative powers to issue a directive which was praised by many Hispanics. Under the signed directive children who were brought into this country by their parents and now at working age got two-year work permits. It helped the Democratic Party in 2012 elections. Again this year midterm elections will be held. Activists’ especially Hispanic voters are in full force once again asking the President to act on immigration reform due to lack of actions in the Congress. They are primarily asking the President to extend “Dreamer” provisions that helped the young illegal immigrants to be expanded to cover others. President Obama faces a paradox. Legislation is the solution to resolve the current situation. The more the President does administratively, less likely to get comprehensive immigration reforms pass by the Congress.
The Department of Homeland Security reached its goal of employing 18,000 border patrol agents in December 2013. They will be deployed to protect land and sea borders especially along the Southern border with Mexico. They will help the U.S. with:
Securing the U.S. –Mexico border using dune buggies to patrol the border to deter and capture drug smugglers and those who crossing the border illegally,
Work as mounted patrol officers to protect the Southern border with Mexico mainly to capture human smugglers, and
Operate helicopters equipped with thermal imaging devices to find illegal border crossing mainly at night.
There are several other measures that are already approved but still underway to boost the measures already in force. They include hiring additional agents authorized but not yet funded under the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act; implementation of the Secure Fence Act of 2006 to erect additional 700 miles of fencing with more guard posts, vehicle barriers, and electronic sensing equipment; and passage of additional bills pending before the Congress that calls for E-verification of new hires and effective entry/exit systems. Funding for various programs has been the main issue of many of current as well as proposed programs.
The current debate over illegal immigration mostly includes those who crossed the border illegally. Not much is done to address visa overstayers. When it comes to illegal immigration, visa overstayers include a large chunk of the category. The Pew center estimates this category to consist of 4 to 5.5 million foreigners in the U.S. However, there are no reliable counts on this category. Therefore, estimates of how many of the 12 million illegals fall into this category vary widely. Visa overstayers are considered to be entered into the country with a valid student, visitor, business or other visa, border crossing cards (BCCs), under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and other categories but staying in the country even after the visa has expired. This category includes mostly educated or wealthy individuals compared to other illegal immigrants in the U.S. Most of them carry forged work documents and hold well-paying jobs. Unfortunately, many employers lack resources to authenticate work related documents.
The law requires those who over stayed in the U.S. more than 180 days but less than one year will not be allowed to re-enter the country with a new visa for a period of three years.