immigration

Backgrounder: Trump and Immigration

Donald Trump and immigration are back in the news. We’ve assembled our most recent and most relevant work to help shine a light on a dark chapter.

NDN Materials

New immigration policies hurting tourism, disrupting US companies, breaking up families, Simon Rosenberg, Twitter Thread, 3/5/17. With the return of of the travel ban, Simon reminds us that WH's new immigration policies already hurting tourism, disrupting US companies, and breaking up families.

The 'Shackles' Are Off, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 3/3/17. Simon considers the dangers of Trump's new immigration policies for all Americans not just immigrants.

Steve Bannon, Meet Russell Pearce, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 2/21/17. Simon examines why potential blowback from Trump's immigration plan should worry Steve Bannon.

Trump's New Immigration Line is Consistent - Not Inconsistent - With His Arizona Speech, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 9/2/16. Trump made it clear: supersized deportation force, national round 'em raids, everyone leaves, no legalization ever. No way to wiggle out of that.

Key passages from Trump Immigration Speech, Chris Murphy, NDN.org, 9/2/16. Several passages from Trump's speech are critical to understanding what Trump actually means and has proposed as future US immigration policy. We have compiled the passages we believe demand closer scrutiny. 

Trump's Mass Deportation Strategy Explained, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 9/1/16. While there has been a great deal of confusion around Trump’s immigration wiggle and concepts like "mass deportation" in the past few weeks, his strategy towards the 11m and others here without authorization is very clear.

All They Have Is Fear Itself, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 11/23/15. The one upsmanship for who could be harder on Muslims we saw among Republican President candidates this past week was a powerful reminder that the GOP has long ceased being a “conservative” party and has descended into a far more pernicious “reactionary” period.

On Immigration Enforcement, The GOP's Decade of Blocking Sensible Reform, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 7/21/15. During the summer of 2015 we saw a breathtaking level of cynicism from the national Republican Party on the issue of immigration enforcement.

The state of immigration, Simon Rosenberg, MSNBC, 1/19/15. While the GOP’s latest rejection of immigration reform has dominated the headlines in recent weeks, the reality is that the United States is already undergoing a major societal shift as a result of significant Hispanic migration.

Questions About Melania's Immigration Path

4 Questions About Melania's Immigration Path That Still Need Answers, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 8/10/16. Weeks after the Melania Trump immigration story broke, 4 key questions we still need answered.

Video of Trump Promising Presser, Saying It Is "So Documented"

NDN in the Press

"Melania Turmp, through a lawyer, details immigration history," Ben Schreckinger and Gabriel Debenedetti, Politico, 9/14/16.

"Trump returns to his old standbys: Xenophobia, hate, lies, and yes, mass deportations," Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 9/1/16.

"TRUMP doubles down -- 'Angry reincarnation of Pete Wilson' -- DIAPER vouchers and cap-and-trade bills," Carla Marinucci and Andrew Weber, Politico, 9/1/16.

"After Mexico trip, Trump delivers tough talk on immigration," John Wildermuth, San Francisco Chronicle, 8/31/16.

"Stop getting played by Trump's scam job on immigration," Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 8/30/16.

Simon's interview on AM Joy, Joy Reid, MSNBC, 8/27/16 (Video)

"Trump's new ad indavertently reveals the core absurdity of his whole campaign," Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, 8/19/16.

Simon's Interviews

Some Getting Sense of Deja Vu With Trump's Policies, SB 1070, Mark Brodie, The Show, KJZZ 91.5 FM, 2/24/17.

Imagen News, Ana Maria Salazar, Imagen Radio, 2/21/17.

Steve Bannon, Meet Russell Pearce

US News and World Report has published Simon's fourteenth column, "Steve Bannon, Meet Russell Pearce," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will now appear every Tuesday.

This piece was the focus of a recent interview Simon did with KJZZ 91.5, the public radio station in Phoneix, AZ.

Be sure to also read his recent column, "Has Donald Trump Already Abandoned the Fight Against the Islamic State?"

An Excerpt from "Steve Bannon, Meet Russell Pearce"

As the White House returns this week to immigration and travel bans, it would be wise for them to do a deep dive on the story of former Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce. Pearce was the legislative leader of Arizona's virulent anti-immigrant wave of a few years ago, culminating in his passing of the famous "papers please" SB1070 bill that became a model for states across the country. Pearce rode these politics hard, using it to become in 2011 the Arizona Senate president, the most powerful legislative position in Arizona.

The core of Pearce's strategy, aided by many of the same people advising Donald Trump, was to create a climate so harsh for undocumented immigrants that they would "self-deport." The anti-immigrant "restrictionists" behind this approach had moved on from seeking direct deportation of all 11 million undocumented immigrants, pragmatically realizing that the cost of direct deportation and the tolerance of Americans for what would be years of raids and broken families made deportation politically impossible. Arizona was the testing ground for this new, refined self-deportation strategy, one that at its core required the terrorizing of immigrant communities to be successful. The more fear, the faster the folks would go and the cheaper and more politically palatable this would all be. Fear, lots of fear, was (and remains) critical for self-deportation to work.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

Column: "The End of Pax Americana?"

US News and World Report has published Simon's eleventh column, "The End of Pax Americana," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will every Thursday or Friday.

Be sure to also read his column, "Chin up, Democrats," in which Simon argues that Democrats should have pride in their historic accomplishments and optimism about the future of their politics.
 
An Excerpt from "The End of Pax Americana"
 
In just his first week in office, Donald Trump has made moves that could set the nation back generations. He is trying to dismantle the global order that American built and led after World War II, which ushered in a relative Golden Age for Americans and the people of the world. For reasons that are still unclear, Trump seems intent on tearing down this successful global system without offering any kind of vision of what will replace it. Given that this system was erected as a way of preventing the developed world from slipping back into a frenzy of nationalism and protectionism that in the 1930s and '40s brought global economic collapse, mass unemployment and a World War that left tens of millions dead, this is no small matter.
 
Let's look at what Trump has said and done over the past few weeks. He unilaterally walked away from the Trans Pacific Partnership, a liberalizing trade pack with countries representing 40 percent of the global economy that would have not only extended the global system to more countries but modernized it for the Internet Age. He has called for the renegotiation of the core economic relationship with two of our three largest trading partners, Mexico and Canada, and already threatened to unilaterally leave what we call the North American Free Trade Agreement. The New York Times reports today that an executive order is coming that will dramatically cut back American support and involvement in multi-lateral institutions like the United Nations. Imposing unilateral tariffs and border taxes as Trump has threatened would begin to unravel the global trade regime that has been in place since the 1940s. He has called NATO obsolete, and has cheered on Brexit and encouraged other countries to leave the EU. On Wednesday he announced a series of highly xenophobic steps including the building of his famous wall with Mexico.
 
Taken together Trump is signaling a retreat to the very kind of politics – nationalism, protectionism, racism and xenophobia – that brought about actual carnage in much of the developed world a few generations ago.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

AP Story Confirms Melania Lied, Broke Immigration Laws

The new AP story about Melania Trump proves she and her husband have been lying for years – on camera, in writing – about her immigration path into the United States, and whether she followed the law.  The story she been telling is a fable, an imaginary tale as false as the words she spoke at the Republican Convention. 

For those interested in pursuing this story further, several questions remain:

Work visas – Trumpworld has never produced or proven she ever had a work visa prior to her getting her green card in 2001.  Her on camera descriptions of her returning to her home country to get her visa stamped every few months does not describe any work visa offered by the US government.   It was, and remains, common for models to work illegally in the country for years as now know Melania did.  Not only did Melania clearly break immigration laws and lie about it, but if she lied about it on her green card application and naturalization documents she potentially committed felony level crimes – serious stuff.

Green Card – Questions remain about her green card.  A Trump family lawyer said in an on the record interview with Univision that she received her green card through marriage – which of course would be news.   In the recent letter from her lawyer – which we know now contained falsehoods – she claimed to have received an “extraordinary ability” green card.  Few experts believe this is possible given that she was never a terribly successful model.   It remains my opinion that until we see her actual green card and application – she could release it and her work visas tomorrow – we should assume she received her green card through marriage.   It is the only option that makes sense. 

Lying – Remember that the questions about her immigration path began when the campaign admitted that she had lied for years about having a dual college degree from a college in her home country, and had in fact gone to college for a year or less.   The reason that lying in this case and in the new stories from the AP matter is that if she lied on her green card and citizenship applications she will have committed multiple cases of fraud against the United States government.   These are felony level crimes – serious crimes – and if ever fully investigated and prosecuted could lead to the stripping of her citizenship.   The AP story also raises new questions about whether Mrs. Trump also committed tax fraud, a new area requiring exploration in coming days.  

It should be noted that being in the United States without authorization – undocumented/illegal – is not a federal crime in the United States.  So this means what Melania has done is far worse in the eyes of the law than anything a run of the mill undocumented immigrant has done.   It is almost certain now that Melania scammed her way into becoming an American citizen.

The Bottom Line – For months the story that has been told about Melania’s path into the United States never really added up.  We also now know that the letter her lawyer produced to try to put this thing to bed, which seemed far-fetched and almost ridiculous at the time, cannot any longer be taken seriously.   Melania Trump broke American immigration laws.   She worked illegally in the United States.  She has lied about it for years, as has her husband.  And until she produces her works visas and green card, and their applications, we should assume she has also committed serious felony level crimes against the United States.    

Release: Rosenberg Statement on Trump Immigration Letter - "It Resolves Nothing"

Simon Rosenberg's statement on Melania Trump's immigration letter:

“Without producing the actual visas or green card application this letter resolves nothing. If they have all the documents, then release them. It is the only way we can answer the fundamental question here which is whether Melania Trump followed immigration law. Failure to release them suggests that they are indeed hiding something, or the narrative they spelled out today is false. It also would have been far easier and quicker to release the actual documents then to have created an outside review. This letter is another case of “believe me” - which is clearly insufficient given that we are talking about possible criminal behavior by the potential First Lady of the United States.

There are additional problems with the letter:

Extraordinary Ability - The claim to have gotten an “extraordinary ability” green card seems improbable given this particular green card's requirements. They are intended for Nobel Laureates or others whose achievements are widely recognized as extraordinary in their field, not middling models. And the most important question remains unanswered by the letter– if she claimed to have a double degree from a university in her green card application she committed fraud, a crime against the United States Government which would put her entire green card/citizenship path becomes in doubt.

It should be noted that the lawyer who produced the letter today is also the one who said on the record in a recorded interview she received her green card through marriage. So one assumes he has recanted his previous public statement about her immigration path into the US.

Questions about the H1B - The reporting by Julia Ioffe and others that she had no regular employer and infrequent work in the late 1990s is again inconsistent with her having been granted a series of H1B visas, or suggests that there were misrepresentations and/or fraud in her applications. It is also not traditionally necessary to return to the home country to renew an H1B, once again calling into question her own recollection of how she lived and worked in the US in the late 1990s.

Finally, the claim that she was never in the US until Aug 1996 has obviously been contradicted by several different eyewitnesses and news accounts.

So, where are we? The letter was well executed and smart. But it resolves nothing. The only way to clear up the question of whether Melania Trump followed immigration law is by releasing her work visas, green card application and green card. Her refusal to do this implies guilt, and this whole episode should be treated as seriously as the Donald Trump’s coming appearance with Dr. Oz."

Additional Resources: Be sure to review Simon's tweets on the topic: here, here, and here as well as his piece, "4 Questions About Melania's Immigration Path Which Still Need Answers".

On Trump, Immigration and Deporting Criminals First

“Monday Musings” is a new column looking at the 2016 elections published most Mondays. You can find previous editions here.

In recent days, some Trump supporters have indicated that the reported evolution in Trump’s thinking on immigration will focus on ways to ensure that unauthorized immigrations with criminal records become a more significant priority for deportation. Last night on the O’Reilly Factor, Trump confirmed that he is indeed attempting to land in some new place on immigration, though where exactly still remains to be seen.

For those reporting/commenting on this evolving issue in the days ahead it is important to keep a few things in mind:

Deporting Criminals First Has Been USG Policy Since 2011 – In the aftermath of the GOP’s blocking of immigration reform in 2010, the Administration took significant steps to prioritize its immigration enforcement efforts in two areas – border deterrence and those with criminal records in the US. The vast majority of those deported from the US in the years since have fallen into those two categories. If this indeed is the direction Trump is going in, he will be endorsing existing long standing Obama Administration immigration and border enforcement strategies. You can find out more about these changes in US policy in this long brief I did last summer.

This new and smarter policy direction has been successful – flow of undocumented immigrants into the country have plummeted; the number of undocumented immigrants in the country today is less than when President Obama took office; it allows limited federal, state and local law enforcement to focus on more serious criminals both undocumented and those legally here in the US; and those undocumented immigrants without criminal records have far less to fear from the US government and can keep working and contributing to the economy.

It is important to note that since the implementation of this new strategy in 2011, Hispanics in the US have made very dramatic economic gains.

Given the success of this new policy in recent years, it would be wise for candidate Trump to embrace it. But as Greg Sargent reports this morning, his apparent embrace of this approach is in direct conflict with the television ad he is currently running, and more than a year of statements he has made about “open borders” and our ineffective border and immigration enforcement system.

In his new piece, Sargent also reminds us that last night Trump only seemed to endorse Obama’s immigration enforcement priorities. No mention of what to do with the millions of unauthorized immigrants who remain.

House GOP on Record Opposing Deporting Criminals First – In 2013 and again in 2014, the House GOP, led by restrictionist Rep. Steve King, voted to prevent the Administration from using its power of “prosecutorial discretion” to prioritize the removal serious criminals and recent border crossers over those without criminal records. This means that if Trump heads in the direction already embraced by the Obama Administration, he will be breaking from the restrictionist wing of his own Party, and his allies in the Paul Ryan led House. Politically, this is no small matter.

So, yes, lot's still to be learned about Trump’s ugly damned if I do, damned if I don’t dance on immigration.

One of those felons to be deported first might be Mrs. Trump – Last night it was reported that Trumpworld has threatened to sue Politico for their reporting on Mrs. Trump problematic immigration story. Weeks after this story first broke, this threatened law suit appears to be the first official response by the Trump campaign to the growing body of evidence that Melania Trump violated immigration laws. It is not exactly the response many of us were led to believe would be coming from Trumpworld on this important matter.

To be clear – the reporting by Politico, the Washington Post, Univision, Bloomberg and others suggest that Mrs. Trump committed a series of grave immigration crimes that could easily rise to the level of a felony, and even trigger a process that could strip her of her citizenship. Just yesterday Vanity Fair reported that Mrs. Trump committed perjury in a 2013 court case where she repeated some of these same fabrications about her past.

I review the seriousness of what has been reported about Mrs. Trump in this recent post, and once again call upon Trumpworld to immediately release all of Mrs. Trump’s work visas she acquired prior to 2011 and her green card and green card application. The only way for us to know whether Melania Trump followed immigration law is by the release of these and other immigration documents.

Mondays Musings: All They Have Is Fear Itself

In a time of challenge, the GOP panics - The one upsmanship for who could be harder on Muslims we saw among Republican President candidates this past week was a powerful reminder that the GOP has long ceased being a “conservative” party and has descended into a far more pernicious “reactionary” period. This is a subject I have discussed at length over the years, including in this long form magazine piece and in this recent piece about how fear will drive the Republicans this election cycle. The fear of modernity that is driving the reactionary right these days is perhaps the most significant force in American politics today, one that is crying out for an equally muscular and modern liberalism to challenge it head on.

Another example of this kneejerky fear of others and foreign threats was the House GOP’s terribly disappointing reaction to the Paris attacks. Of all the things the House GOP could have done last week, the Ryan-led House rushed out a bill – with no hearings and overriding their own internal rules about time needed to consider legislation – making it far tougher for the US to admit Syrian refugees. Regardless of the merits of the bill, the haste in which it was rushed out made it appear to be designed more to undermine and embarrass the President in the middle of an important foreign trip than to develop a more effective, bi-partisan response to the growing threat of the Islamic State. Paul Ryan’s choice was craven, nasty politics in its purest form in a time of challenge, the very opposite of patriotism.

Contrast this not ready for prime time behavior with that of the Democrats: the President continued his important trip to Asia, selling among other things his newly negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement; and Hillary Clinton gave a thoughtful and mature speech about defeating the Islamic State. Senate Democrats also made a valuable contribution to this nascent debate, countering Ryan’s refugee with a proposal to close the NRA supported loophole that allows those on the terror watch list to legally buy guns in the US (something we think has happened several thousand times, and yes this is a real debate).

There can be no doubt that the nation needs to both develop a better response to the Islamic State and have a respectful, public debate about it. Given how the two parties responded last week to Paris, I am proud of how the Democrats have responded, and worried about where the GOP is headed at a time when we need to come together, work with our allies and be smart (see here for my thoughts on the US should move forward now “After Paris.”)

The US remains a welcoming, generous nation - And while I disagree with Ryan’s refugee bill, I also want to challenge the assertions by some that we are an ungenerous nation when it comes to allowing immigrants into the US. Since 1950 the US has allowed close to 50 million immigrants into the US legally. Another 4 million refugees have resettled here, and another 11 million or so have come here without authorization. In the past 65 years, the US has absorbed 65 million new immigrants – an extraordinary number, equal to 1/5th of our total population today. We are currently taking in 1 million new legal immigrants every year in the US; so over the next 100 years at current rates we will take in 100 million more new immigrants. This graph does a good job capturing both the scale of the recent migration into the US, and its diversity. So while we may head into the Thanksgiving break disappointed with the GOP, we should not for a moment buy into the argument that America is anything but a generous and welcoming nation to immigrants from throughout the world.

See the graph below for US immigration trends ("200 Years of Immigration to the U.S.", Natalia Bronshtein).

I remain convinced that the Democrats should make it far more explicit on their strategy for improving the immigration system. I offered this three part plan as a starting point, one that would include reintroducing the House Democrats immigration bill from 2014, fully funding the Vice President’s Central American plan and supporting the aggressive efforts by this Administration – and repeatedly blocked by the GOP – to make the deportation of dangerous criminals the highest priority of our immigration enforcement system.  Pro-reform advocates should stop playing defense now and go out and make it clear how we want to modernize and improve America's terribly broken immigration system. 

Polling/National Landscape – The GOP field saw changes last week: Trump’s lead increased across the nation and in the early primary states; Carson, as we predicted, has begun to fade; Cruz and Rubio are making meaningful gains. If current trends continue the GOP race could soon be a three way among Trump, Rubio and Cruz with a large group in the back of the field hanging on by their fingernails and not much else.

The Democratic side saw Hillary having another good week, appearing Presidential and competent in the days after Paris. Bernie Sanders, however, choose to go ahead and give a major address on “democratic socialism,” an act that seemed to reinforce both the liabilities and limitations of his spirited candidacy. What should be worrisome to the Democrats, however, is the initial hit in the polls Obama took this week. After what was the very best run he had had in almost three years in Gallup, the President lost 5 or so points in the last few days. It is a reminder to Democrats that while there is now great optimism about the revitalized Clinton campaign, the performance of the President over the next year will matter as much to 2016 as what she does. It will be important for the President to return from his foreign trip and take control of the substance and politics of this debate about how to best rid the world of the Islamic State and bring a better day to Syria and the broader Middle East.

"Monday Musings" is a new column looking at the national political landscape published most Mondays here on the NDN site.  You find previous versions here

On Immigration Enforcement, The GOP's Decade of Blocking Sensible Reform

This week we will see, even by Washington standards, a breathtaking level of cynicism from the national Republican Party on the issue of immigration enforcement (the data backing up the arguments in this piece can be found here, here and here).

For a decade now there has been broad consensus that the huge wave of undocumented immigrants who came into the United States from the early 1990s to the later part of 00s needed federal legislation to resolve; that this enormous influx has overwhelmed law enforcement and immigration courts responsible for managing domestic immigration enforcement, degrading the integrity of a system built for a much lower level of unauthorized migration; that local enforcement desperately wanted to spend their limited resources on going after serious criminals and not law-abiding, job holding undocumented immigrants; that enforcing immigration law is a federal not a local responsibility, something reinforced repeatedly in the courts over the past decade; that the passage of comprehensive reform would have created an orderly process allowing law enforcement agencies at all levels to better focus on the imprisonment and deportation of serious criminals.

As we head into a week of significant debate then on immigration enforcement, it is important to remember a few things:

- Since Comprehensive Immigration Reform was first introduced by Senators Ted Kennedy and John McCain in 2005, Republicans in Congress have blocked its passage on four separate occasions. The most significant instances came in 2006 and 2013/4, when the House Republicans refused to even consider sensible bi-partisan bills passed by the Senate and supported at the time by President Bush and then President Obama. Each of these bills would have helped unclogged an overwhelmed immigration enforcement system in the United States, making incidents like what happened in San Francisco far less likely.

- In 2010, recognizing that the primary method we had for helping unclog the overwhelmed immigration enforcement system – CIR – was not going to happen in the President’s first term, DHS implemented new enforcement priorities known as the “Morton Memos” which prioritized illegal border crossers and undocumented immigrants with serious criminal history for deportation. These reforms brought immediate change to the huge immigration enforcement system in the US, and have resulted in the deportation of more serious criminals and has helped keep illegal entries into the US at historic lows.

- In 2013 and again in 2014, the House Republicans passed legislation designed to overturn these smart reforms, making it impossible for example for DHS to prioritize felons like the suspect in the San Francisco shooting for rapid removal through the immigration enforcement system. And the House doubled down on this approach by threatening to shut all of DHS down earlier this year in a standoff over the implementation of these reforms, including the new Priority Enforcement Program. PEP as it is known was launched last year to forge a higher level of cooperation between federal and local law enforcement to more rapidly remove serious criminals from the country.

Finally, it must be said that the attacks on President Obama’s immigration enforcement record are ridiculous. The President has deported more unauthorized immigrants than any President in American history; after a decade and a half of the US absorbing half a million new undocumented immigrants into the county, the net flow of new immigrants on this President’s watch has dropped to zero (an extraordinary public policy achievement); crime along the entire US side of the border is way down, and the two safest large cities in the US today sit on the border, El Paso and San Diego; reforms initiated by DHS throughout the Obama Presidency, including a new round in late 2014, have made the deportation of violent criminals the highest priority for our immigration system. All of the policies used to achieve these outcomes have been opposed by the House Republicans, and further reform, comprehensive immigration reform, has been repeatedly blocked.

So a proper read of the last decade has been one party, the Democrats, have repeatedly advanced proposals and policy that have strengthened our immigration enforcement system and made the rapid deportation of criminals a priority. The other party, has repeatedly block sensible bi-partisan reforms which would strengthened our immigration enforcement system, and have passed additional legislation preventing DHS from continuing policies which have clearly made our border safer and immigration system far more focused on deporting murderers and not moms. If there is a national Party to blame for the tragic event in San Francisco it is far more the fault of the Republicans than the Democrats.

The national GOP’s effort to politicize the tragic shooting in San Francisco is an act of breathtaking and insulting cynicism. For a decade now they have blocked reforms and legislation designed to make incidents like this one far less likely. The new legislation being discussed to crack down on “Sanctuary Cities” will only make a terribly broken system worse, it will generate enormous political ill-will between local and federal law enforcement making the management of our entire national system far more difficult. These bills are hasty, political and ill-thought out. They will only make a serious national problem far worse and seemed far more designed to change the subject from Donald Trump’s recent attacks on legal, law abiding immigrants to the US than to solve a vexing national problem made far worse by their refusal to advance sensible reform over a decade of intense debate. 

If indeed the national Republican Party is serious about building on the extraordinary gains we’ve made in immigration enforcement in recent years, it can:

1) Pass comprehensive reform. HR15 introduced by the Democrats last year included the GOP’s Homeland Security Committee’s package of immigration enforcement provisions. CIR will help allow law enforcement and immigration courts to better target and more rapidly remove serious threats to public safety

2) Fully fund and support the post Morton era reforms by DHS, including the expansion of PEP. These reforms have already produced real results and improvements in border security and domestic enforcement.

3) Fund the Administration’s Central America proposal to help staunch the flow of unauthorized migrants from nearby El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Last summer the House GOP deeply politicized the border crisis, and is now unwilling to follow through on sensible investments which will make future events like this far less likely while improving regional security and economic growth.

This latest focus on "Sanctuary Cities" is another disappointing episode in the GOP's decade long commitment on immigration reform to put politics over smart, sound solutions to a vexing national challenge. 

NDN Analysis: Total Removals, Returns of Unauthorized Immigrants Plummet Under Obama

Over the past several months, NDN/NPI has published a series of analyses which argue that through greater investment, better strategies and deeper cooperation with Mexico, the Obama Administration has made the immigration system better and the border safer while seeing a dramatic expansion of trade with Mexico. 

Today we release a simple analysis which sheds new light on the hotly debated issue of deportations.  Using a broader, more accurate measure of the number of unauthorized immigrants removed from the country since the first year of the Bush Presidency, we find that in fact the total number of “removals[i]” and “returns[ii]” has actually plummeted during the Obama Presidency.  In 2012, the Obama Administration removed and returned almost a million people less than the height of the Bush Presidency.  And every year of the Obama Presidency has seen a sizable decline in the total number of unauthorized migrants removed or returned to their countries (See this piece by the WSJ's Laura Meckler discussing the report). 

Unauthorized Migrants Removed or Returned, FY 2001-2012[iii]

Total DHS Returns and Removals, FY 2001-2012[iv]

So while we do not yet have the full picture of 2013, it is unlikely that the total number of removals and returns increased, as the total number of “removals” (deportations) measured by ICE fell by ten percent from 409,849 to 368,644 from FY 2012 to 2013.

For years, NDN has argued that the Obama Administration’s management of its border and immigration enforcement responsibilities deserves far more praise it has received.  Despite deeply rancorous politics, a very real set of operational and security challenges, and the Republicans’ refusal to adopt long overdue and thoughtful reform, things in the border region are clearly better today.  Crime on the US side of the border is down; net migration is zero today; only 10,000 or so non-border-crosser non-criminal unauthorized migrants were deported in 2013; while US trade with Mexico has almost doubled.  It is our belief that history will declare the Administration’s management of this tough basket of issues a resounding policy success.  For more on this record of success and progress, see below. 

Obama Administration Immigration and Border Enforcement: Key Stats

  • Crime is down along the US side of the border.  The two largest border cities, El Paso and San Diego, are the two safest large cities in America today.
  • Four of the five high-traffic migration corridors across the US-Mexico border are already at or near the Senate bill’s goal of a 90% effectiveness rate.
  • Net migration from Mexico has fallen from its 2001 peak of 770,000 people per year to zero today.
  • Since President Obama took office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has made steps to prioritize removing criminals and recent border crossers. ICE reports that in FY 2013, 82% of the unauthorized immigrants it arrested and removed from the interior US had a criminal conviction.  About two thirds of all 2013 ICE removals were people arrested at the border. Of 368,644 removals, only 10,336 individuals were not convicted of a crime, repeat immigration violators, immigration fugitives, or at the border.
  • In 2012 the Obama Administration implemented Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to allow about one million DREAMers, unauthorized immigrants brought to the US as youths, to work and study legally in the US.
  • Trade with Mexico has jumped from $340 billion in 2009 to about $550 billion in 2013.  Mexico is America’s 3rd largest trading partner, and 2nd largest export market.  $1.3 billion worth of goods and 1 million people cross the 2000 mile US-Mexico border each day.

[i] “Removals are the compulsory and confirmed movement of an inadmissible or deportable alien out of the United States based on an order of removal. An alien who is removed has administrative or criminal consequences placed on subsequent reentry owing to the fact of the removal” (DHS).

[ii] “Returns are the confirmed movement of an inadmissible or deportable alien out of the United States not based on an order of removal” (DHS).

[iii] Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, ENFORCE Alien Removal Module (EARM), February 2013; Enforcement Integrated Database (EID), November 2012.

[iv] Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, ENFORCE Alien Removal Module (EARM), February 2013; Enforcement Integrated Database (EID), November 2012; FY 2013 ICE Immigration Removals. Graph prepared by NDN/NPI staff.

Is America Still a Top Destination for Immigrants?

American exceptionalism has become a theme of our immigration debate.  From both sides, we hear that America is a uniquely desirable place that, for good or ill, draws an outsized share of the world’s immigrants.  The truth of this matter is that large-scale immigration is a worldwide phenomenon tied to contemporary globalization.  Porous borders and rising education levels have allowed tens of millions of people in developing societies to become more mobile, and new communications and transportation technologies give everyone access to information about other countries and ways to get there.  Perhaps most important, rising global demand has created vast new opportunities for foreign labor – whether it’s to bolster shrinking labor pools across much of Europe, provide services in thinly-populated, oil-rich countries in the Middle East, or cater to wealthy global elites in dozens of tax havens.

So, despite dire warnings that U.S. immigration reform will set off another invasion of America by new immigrants, the data show that many other countries are stronger magnets for foreign workers than the United States.  In fact, when it comes to foreign-born residents, America looks fairly average.

It is true that more foreign-born people live in America today than anywhere else.  But that’s mainly because we are a very large country, with more native-born people as well than anywhere except China and India.  And most of our immigrants came here with our permission: Two-thirds of all foreign-born people living in the United States are naturalized citizens or legal permanent resident aliens, and another 4 percent have legal status as temporary migrants.  That leaves about 30 percent who are undocumented.   

Consider the percentages of foreign-born residents living today in various nations:  America with just under 13 percent of its population foreign-born, according to U.N. data, ranks 40th in the world for immigrants as a share of the population.  By contrast, across the 10 most immigrant-intensive countries, foreign-born people account for between 77 percent and 42 percent of their total populations. 

These unusually high proportions of immigrants appear to be generally linked to global trade and finance.  In the top 10, for example, we first set aside the special cases of Macau and Hong Kong, whose Chinese populations are counted as foreign-born, and Vatican City.  Of the remaining seven nations, four are in the Middle-East – Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Bahrain – where tens of thousands of foreign workers are needed to help meet global demand for oil and provide services for native populations grown wealthy off of their oil.  The other three countries in the top 10 are global tax havens and financial centers – Andorra, Monaco, and Singapore -- that draw thousands of global elites followed by foreign workers to provide their services.  

The next 10 most immigrant-heavy countries, where foreign-born persons comprise between 42 percent and 22 percent of their populations, include five more tax havens (Nauru in Micronesia, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, San Marino, and Switzerland) and three more oil rich, Middle Eastern countries (Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Brunei).  The two others in this group are the special cases of Israel, where Jewish national identity is the draw, and Jordan, home to tens of thousands of people displaced by the Iraqi and Israel-Arab conflicts.

Beyond the top 20 countries for foreign-born residents, numerous other nations that more closely resemble the United States, in economic opportunities and social benefits, also draw immigrants in greater relative numbers than America.  For example, some 19 percent to 20 percent of the populations of Australia and Canada are foreign-born, compared to our 13 percent.  Austria, Ireland, New Zealand and Norway also lead the United States in immigrants as a share of their populations, as do the smaller and less-advanced nations of Estonia, Latvia, Belize, Ukraine, Croatia, and Cyprus.   A similar pattern emerges from OECD data covering 25 industrialized countries from 2001 to 2010.  Over that decade, the share of the American population born somewhere else has averaged 12.1 percent.  By this measure, the United States trails not only such countries as Australia, Austria, Canada, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Israel, as noted above, but also Sweden, Germany, and Belgium. 

This pattern also does not change much when we look at the most recent, annual “net migration rates” of various countries (2012).  That’s a standard demographic measure calculated by taking the number of people coming into a country, less the number of people who leave, and divide by 1,000.   Using that measure, the United States ranked 26th in the world.   At 3.6 net immigrants per-1,000 in 2012, we trail far behind three oil-rich countries averaging 24.1 net immigrants per-1,000 (Qatar, UAE, and Bahrain), 13 tax havens averaging 10.8 per-1,000 (from the British Virgin Islands and the Isle of Man, to the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg), and two countries that have become sanctuaries for refugees (Botswana and Djibouti at 14.9 per 1,000).  In addition, at least four other advanced countries also had much higher net migration rates last year -- Australia, Canada, Spain and Italy, averaging 5.3 net immigrants per-1,000 or a rate nearly 50 percent higher than for the United States.

Given the role of labor demand in migration flows and the particular demand in the United States for skilled workers, it is also unsurprising that, according to the Census Bureau, almost 70 percent of foreign-born people residing here, by age 25 or older, are high school graduates.  In fact, nearly 30 percent hold college degrees, the same share as native-born Americans.  On the less-skilled part of the distribution, of course, we find many undocumented male immigrants.  But as we showed in a 2011 analysis for NDN and the New Politics Institute,  undocumented male immigrants also have the highest labor participation rates in the country:  Among men age 18 to 64 years, 94 percent of undocumented immigrants work or actively seek work, compared to 83 percent of native-born Americans, and 85 percent of immigrants with legal status.

On balance, the data show that the United States is not home to an unusually large share of immigrants, legal and otherwise.  As globalization has increased the demand for labor in dozens of countries while lowering the barriers to people moving to other places for work, America has become fairly average as a worldwide destination.   

This post was originally published in Dr. Shapiro's blog

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