History Podcasts

How has enforcement of the USA-Mexico border changed over time?

How has enforcement of the USA-Mexico border changed over time?

My question here is, "How has the enforcement (and attitude) toward the USA-Mexico border changed over time?

The US has a long history of strained border relations with Mexico, especially early in Mexico's history. New Spain, which later became Mexico, was often a place where slaves would flee their masters. Texas declared independence from Mexico in 1821 and a war was fought. Mexico abolished slavery in 1829 causing more slaves in the US to flee there and increasing tensions. Read more here. Mexico refused to accept the new borders for Texas, which led to Mexican-American War from 1846-1848.

The US gained large amounts territories once owned by Mexico. slavery was abolished shortly afterward in the US in the American Civil War. From reading various material from that time, attitudes changed more towards concerns of integrating the new Mexican citizens into American society instead of enforcing borders or preventing a flow of American or Mexican citizens across the border. Perhaps, there was concern of preventing Native Americans from crossing the border freely at this time, since the the US army was trying to keep them on reservations, which was not always successful.

In the 20th century, concerns shifted towards migrant Mexican labor in the Great Depression. Efforts were made to restrict the number of these laborers by requiring employers to have work visas for them. Many Mexicans were deported during the Great Depression as well. Quotas for workers and deportations were used again in the 1940s-1964's when economic conditions worsened after WWII, under the "Bracero Program." and "Operation Wetback."

"The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, also known as the Hart-Cellar Act, abolished the system of national-origin quotas. By equalizing immigration policies, the act resulted in new immigration from non-European nations… " Wikipedia. The US has used broadly similar immigration enforcement since this time, but there are many that would like to change it for many reasons, such as international terrorism or drug cartel violence which this answer doesn't address. Thus it is in the news.

Securing and Managing Our Borders

Protecting the nation's borders—land, air, and sea—from the illegal entry of people, weapons, drugs, and contraband is vital to our homeland security, as well as economic prosperity. Over the past several years, DHS has deployed unprecedented levels of personnel, technology, and resources to the Southwest border. At the same time, DHS has made critical security improvements along the Northern border, investing in additional Border Patrol agents, technology, and infrastructure while also strengthening efforts to increase the security of the nation's maritime borders.

5 Things To Know About Obama's Enforcement Of Immigration Laws

A Border Patrol agent checks for footprints near the U.S. border with Mexico on April 13 in Weslaco, Texas.

In a speech Wednesday night, Donald Trump will lay out — and clarify — his proposed immigration policy.

His stance on immigration has appeared to change more in the past 10 days than it has in the past 10 months.

But perhaps the most unexpected element of the recent shifts in rhetoric is that Trump has praised President Obama's work on immigration enforcement, a surprising turn for a Republican candidate.

"What people don't know is that Obama got tremendous numbers of people out of the country. Bush, the same thing. Lots of people were brought out of the country with the existing laws. Well, I'm going to do the same thing," Trump said last week to Fox News' Bill O'Reilly.

That's true, to an extent. Ahead of Trump's speech, here are five things to know about how President Obama has enforced immigration laws over the past eight years.

1. Deportations increased under President Obama, at first.

Deportations, or "removals" as the Department of Homeland Security calls them, increased in each of the first four years President Obama was in office, topping 400,000 in fiscal year 2012. Obama oversaw more deportations than George W. Bush did, just as Bush oversaw more than Bill Clinton did. The trend toward increased deportations began with the 1996 passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act and accelerated after the Sept. 11 attacks, with growing budgets for the DHS agencies that enforce immigration law. Formal removal has largely replaced informal "return" for those caught in the country illegally. Removal carries stiffer consequences and it's increasingly carried out without judicial review.

2. Deportations have dipped in the past three years.

Deportations peaked in fiscal year 2012, and have declined in each of the three years since then, dropping to 235,413 in fiscal year 2015. The decline in deportations mirrors a drop in apprehensions along the southwest border with Mexico. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, apprehensions so far this year are running slightly ahead of 2015, but well below the pace of the two previous years. In addition, deportations from the interior of the United States have been dropping steadily since the first year of the Obama administration.

3. Odds of deportation depend a lot on geography and timing.

President Obama's approach to immigration enforcement is really two very different approaches: one for those caught near the border, the other for immigrants found living illegally in the interior. How long an immigrant has been here makes a difference as well. Like others before it, the Obama administration says it doesn't have the resources or the desire to deport millions of immigrants whose only crime was entering the country illegally. So, it has focused its enforcement efforts on particular targets: namely those caught near the border, those who've committed crimes and those who appear to have arrived in 2014 or later.

"The result is sharply different enforcement pictures at the border and within the United States," according to a report from the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute. "At the border, there is a near zero tolerance system, where unauthorized immigrants are increasingly subject to formal removal and criminal charges. Within the country, there is greater flexibility."


Is Trump Flip-Flopping On Immigration? Yes Or No, It's Sure Been Confusing

In the last year of the Bush administration, 64 percent of deportations were from the interior of the country. By last year, interior deportations had shrunk to less than 30 percent of the total. While the Obama administration has focused enforcement efforts along the border, not everyone apprehended there is a new, first-time arrival. Some may have longstanding ties and family members elsewhere in the U.S.

The administration stresses that a growing proportion of those who are deported have criminal records: 59 percent last year, up from 31 percent in fiscal year 2008.

4. Illegal immigration from Mexico has dropped in recent years, but many from Central America still attempt to cross.

Border Patrol apprehensions, which the government sees as a barometer of illegal border-crossing attempts, have been dropping for the past decade and a half. The Border Patrol apprehended 337,117 people nationwide in fiscal year 2015. That's down nearly 30 percent from the previous year and nearly 80 percent below the peak in 2000. Monthly figures through July of this year show a slight uptick, but apprehensions are still well below 2014 levels.

Late last year, the Pew Research Center reported that in the previous five years, more Mexicans had left the United States than entered. The center suggested tough border enforcement and a slow-growing U.S. economy contributed to reversing what had been "one of the largest mass migrations in modern history."

While the influx of border-crossers from Mexico may have slowed or stopped, the U.S. continues to attract a sizable number of immigrants from Central America. Officers patrolling the southwest border of the United States apprehended 172,165 immigrants from countries other than Mexico during the first 10 months of the fiscal year.

5. The administration has used its discretion to shape immigration enforcement, except when the federal courts said no.

In 2012, the administration granted a temporary reprieve from deportation to certain immigrants who were brought to this country illegally as children. More than 600,000 young people took advantage of the offer, which also enabled them to obtain work permits.

How U.S. immigration laws and rules have changed through history

The United States began regulating immigration soon after it won independence from Great Britain, and the laws since enacted have reflected the politics and migrant flows of the times. Early legislation tended to impose limits that favored Europeans, but a sweeping 1965 law opened doors to immigrants from other parts of the world. In more recent years, laws and presidential actions have been shaped by concerns about refugees, unauthorized immigration and terrorism.

A 1790 law was the first to specify who could become a citizen, limiting that privilege to free whites of “good moral character” who had lived in the U.S. for at least two years. In 1870, the right of citizenship was extended to those of African origin.

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Starting in 1875, a series of restrictions on immigration were enacted. They included bans on criminals, people with contagious diseases, polygamists, anarchists, beggars and importers of prostitutes. Other restrictions targeted the rising number of Asian immigrants, first limiting migration from China and later banning immigration from most Asian countries.

By the early 1900s, the nation’s predominant immigration flow shifted away from northern and western European nations and toward southern and eastern Europe. In response, laws were passed in 1921 and 1924 to try to restore earlier immigration patterns by capping total annual immigration and imposing numerical quotas based on immigrant nationality that favored northern and western European countries.

Long-standing immigration restrictions began to crumble in 1943, when a law allowed a limited number of Chinese to immigrate. In 1952, legislation allowed a limited number of visas for other Asians, and race was formally removed as grounds for exclusion. Although a presidential commission recommended scrapping the national-origins quota system, Congress did not go along.

In 1965, though, a combination of political, social and geopolitical factors led to passage of the landmark Immigration and Nationality Act that created a new system favoring family reunification and skilled immigrants, rather than country quotas. The law also imposed the first limits on immigration from the Western Hemisphere. Before then, Latin Americans had been allowed to enter the U.S. without many restrictions. Since enactment of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, immigration has been dominated by people born in Asia and Latin America, rather than Europe.

Several laws since then have focused on refugees, paving the way for entrance of Indochinese refugees fleeing war violence in the 1970s and later including relief for other nationalities, including Chinese, Nicaraguans and Haitians. A 1990 law created the “temporary protective status” that has shielded immigrants, mainly Central Americans, from deportation to countries facing natural disasters, armed conflicts or other extraordinary conditions.

In 1986, Congress enacted another major law – the Immigration Reform and Control Act – that granted legalization to millions of unauthorized immigrants, mainly from Latin America, who met certain conditions. The law also imposed sanctions on employers who hired unauthorized immigrants. Subsequent laws in 1996, 2002 and 2006 were responses to concerns about terrorism and unauthorized immigration. These measures emphasized border control, prioritized enforcement of laws on hiring immigrants and tightened admissions eligibility.

Immigration in the United States: New Economic, Social, Political Landscapes with Legislative Reform on the Horizon

Immigration has shaped the United States as a nation since the first newcomers arrived over 400 years ago. Beyond being a powerful demographic force responsible for how the country and its population became what they are today, immigration has contributed deeply to many of the economic, social, and political processes that are foundational to the United States as a nation.

Although immigration has occurred throughout American history, large-scale immigration has occurred during just four peak periods: the peopling of the original colonies, westward expansion during the middle of the 19th century, and the rise of cities at the turn of the 20th century. The fourth peak period began in the 1970s and continues today.

These peak immigration periods have coincided with fundamental transformations of the American economy. The first saw the dawn of European settlement in the Americas. The second allowed the young United States to transition from a colonial to an agricultural economy. The industrial revolution gave rise to a manufacturing economy during the third peak period, propelling America's rise to become the leading power in the world. Today's large-scale immigration has coincided with globalization and the last stages of transformation from a manufacturing to a 21st century knowledge-based economy. As before, immigration has been prompted by economic transformation, just as it is helping the United States adapt to new economic realities.

For a nation of immigrants and immigration, the United States adjusts its immigration policies only rarely, largely because the politics surrounding immigration can be deeply divisive. As a result, immigration policy has often been increasingly disconnected from the economic and social forces that drive immigration. When changes have been made, they have generally taken years to legislate.

Today, the United States may be on the threshold of major new reforms that would address longstanding problems of illegal immigration, as well as those in the legal immigration system, which has not been updated since 1990. The impetus for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) has returned to the congressional stage, with bipartisan groups in the House and Senate engaged in significant negotiations to craft legislation that would increase enforcement at the nation's borders and interiors, legalize the nation’s estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants, and provide legal avenues for employers in the United States to access future workers they need. CIR, in one form or another, has been under consideration since at least 2001, with major debates in the Senate in 2006 and 2007. After the failure of CIR legislation in the Senate in 2007, the effort to reform the nation's immigration laws was sidelined. The results and voting patterns of the 2012 presidential election gave both political parties new reasons to revisit an immigration reform agenda.

This country profile examines key legislative events that form the history of the U.S. immigration system, the size and attributes of the immigrant population in the country, the characteristics of legal and illegal immigration streams, U.S. policies for refugees and asylum seekers, immigrant integration efforts, postrecession immigration trends, immigration enforcement, immigration policies during President Obama's administration, and prospects for reform legislation.

In the decades prior to 1880, immigration to the United States was primarily European, driven by forces such as industrialization in Western Europe and the Irish potato famine. The expanding frontiers of the American West and the United States' industrial revolution drew immigrants to U.S. shores. Chinese immigrants began to arrive in large numbers for the first time in the 1850s after gold was discovered in California in 1848.

Federal oversight of immigration began in 1882, when Congress passed the Immigration Act. It established the collection of a fee from each noncitizen arriving at a U.S. port to be used by the Treasury Department to regulate immigration. Arriving immigrants were screened for the first time under this act, and entry by anyone deemed a "convict, lunatic, idiot, or person unable to take care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge" was prohibited.

As the mining boom in the West began to subside, animosity toward the large populations of Chinese laborers and other foreigners surged, and so began a series of legislative measures to restrict immigration of certain racial groups, beginning with nationals of China. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was the first such law. It halted immigration of Chinese laborers for ten years, barred Chinese naturalization, and provided for the deportation of Chinese in the country illegally. In a follow-on bill, Congress passed the 1888 Scott Act and banned the return of Chinese nationals with lawful status in the United States if they departed the country. In 1892, the Geary Act extended the ten-year bar on Chinese labor immigration, and established restrictive policies toward Chinese immigrants with and without legal status.

Between 1880 and 1930, over 27 million new immigrants arrived, mainly from Italy, Germany, Eastern Europe, Russia, Britain, Canada, Ireland, and Sweden. This peak immigration period—the last large-scale immigration wave prior to the current period—also led to new restrictions.

In an expansion of racial exclusion, and by overriding a presidential veto, Congress passed the 1917 Immigration Act which prohibited immigration from a newly drawn "Asiatic barred zone" covering British India, most of Southeast Asia, and nearly all of the Middle East. It also expanded inadmissibility grounds to include anarchists, persons previously deported within the past year, and illiterate individuals over the age of 16.

Nativist and restrictionist sentiment continued through the 1920s, prompting the United States to introduce numerical limitations on immigration for the first time. The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1924 established the national-origins quota system, which set a ceiling on the number of immigrants that could be admitted to the United States from each country. It strongly favored northern and western European immigration. The 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act continued the national-origins quota system but for the first time allocated an immigration quota for Asian countries.

Although the discriminatory nature of the national-origins quota system had become increasingly discredited, it took until the Kennedy era and the ripple effects of the nation's civil-rights movement for a new philosophy guiding immigration to take hold. The resulting Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1965 repealed the national-origins quota system and replaced it with a seven-category preference system based primarily on family unification. Overall, the legislation set in motion powerful forces that are still shaping the United States today.

The 1965 act increased numerical limits on immigration from 154,000 to 290,000. A ceiling on immigration from the Americas (120,000) was imposed for the first time, and a per-country limit of 20,000 was set for Eastern Europe. The new caps did not include "immediate family members" of U.S. citizens (spouses, minor children, and parents). In 1976, the 20,000 per county limit was applied to the Western Hemisphere.

The year before the 1965 Act, Congress terminated the Bracero program, which it had authorized during World War II to recruit agricultural workers from Mexico to fill farm-labor shortages in the United States. In the wake of these and other sweeping changes in the global economy, immigration flows that had been European-dominated for most of the nation's history gave way to predominantly Latin American and Asian immigration.

Today's large-scale immigration began in the 1970s, and has been made up of both legal and illegal flows. Prior periods of large-scale immigration occurred before visas were subject to numerical ceilings, so the phenomenon of "illegal immigration" is a relatively recent element of immigration policy history and debates.

The largest source country of legal admissions, Mexico, has also accounted for the largest share of illegal immigrants who cross the southwest land border with the United States to seek the comparatively higher wages available from U.S. jobs.

By the mid-1980s, an estimated 3 to 5 million noncitizens were living unlawfully in the country. To address illegal immigration, Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), which was intended to act as a "three-legged stool." IRCA included the following:

  • Sanctions against employers who knowingly hired unauthorized workers, including fines and criminal penalties intended to reduce hiring of unauthorized immigrants
  • Increased border enforcement designed to prevent the entry of future unauthorized immigrants and
  • Legalization that granted legal status to unauthorized immigrants who had lived in the United States for at least five years (with a more lenient measure for agricultural workers) in an effort to "wipe the slate clean" of illegal immigration for the future. The combined programs granted lawful status to 2.7 million individuals (out of 3 million applicants).

Ultimately, IRCA failed for several reasons. First, the legalization program excluded a significant slice of the unauthorized population that had arrived after the five-year cutoff date but stayed in the United States and became the core of a new unauthorized population. Second, improvements in border enforcement did not begin in earnest until the 1990s. And the heart of the law—employer sanctions—had weak enforcement provisions that proved ineffective at checking hiring practices of sizable numbers of unauthorized immigrants.

Four years later, Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1990 to revamp the legal immigration system and admit a greater share of highly-skilled and educated immigrants. It raised legal immigration caps, modified the temporary nonimmigrant visa system, and revised the grounds of inadmissibility and deportation. The law also established Temporary Protected Status (TPS), creating a statutory footing for permission to live and work in the United States to nationals of countries deemed unsafe for return because of armed conflict or natural disaster.

Overall, IRCA and its enforcement mechanisms were no match for the powerful forces that drive illegal migration. Both IRCA and the 1990 Act failed to adequately foresee and incorporate measures to provide and manage continued flows of temporary and permanent immigrants to meet the country's labor market needs, especially during the economic boom years of the 1990s.

As a result, illegal immigration grew dramatically and began to be experienced not only in the six traditional immigration destination states of New York, New Jersey, Florida, Texas, Illinois, and California, but also in many other areas across the southeast, midwest, and mountain states that had not had experience with large-scale immigration for up to a century. Although immigration served as a source of economic productivity and younger workers in areas where the population and workforces were aging, a large share of the immigration was comprised of illegal immigration flows. Thus, the challenge to deeply-held rule-of-law principles and the social change represented by this immigration generated progressively negative public sentiment about immigration that prompted Congress to pass a set of strict new laws in 1996, as follows:

  • The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), commonly known as the Welfare Reform Act, denied access to federal public benefits, such as Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and food stamps to categories of authorized and unauthorized immigrants. Some states later chose to reinstate some of these benefits for authorized immigrants who lost eligibility under PRWORA.
  • The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) bolstered immigration enforcement, increased penalties for immigration-related crimes, provided for expedited removal of inadmissible noncitizens, barred unlawfully present immigrants from re-entry for long periods of time, and set income requirements for immigrants' family sponsors at 125 percent of the federal poverty level. IIRIRA also required the government to track foreign visitors' entries and exits, which became a key element in the government's security strategy after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
  • The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) made it easier to arrest, detain, and deport noncitizens.

Subsequently, Congress returned to shoring up legal immigration measures in 2000 by enacting the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act to meet demand for skilled immigrants—especially in science, math, and engineering specialties—and enable employers to fill technology jobs that are a critical dimension of the post-industrial, information age economy. The act raised the annual number of H-1B visas given to high-skilled workers in specialty occupations to 115,000 in fiscal year (FY) 2000, then to 195,000 for FY 2001, 2002, and 2003. At present, 65,000 H-1B visas per year are available, with an additional 20,000 H-1B visas (due to a law passed in late 2004) for foreign-born individuals with advanced U.S. degrees.

The 1990s saw the longest period of sustained economic and job growth the United States had experienced since at least World War II. Immigration—at both high and low ends of the labor market, both legal and illegal—was an important element in achieving the productivity and prosperity of the decade. Immigration also contributed to the economic transformation required for the United States to compete in a global economy. With more than 14 million newcomers (legal and illegal), the 1990s reached numerical levels that out-numbered the previous all-time high set during the first decade of the 20th century. The trend has continued into the 2000s with more than 16 million newcomers from 2000-10.

The Lasting Impact of 9/11 on Immigration Policy

No recent event has influenced the thinking and actions of the American public and its leaders as much as the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In the almost-12 years since 9/11, many aspects of the U.S. immigration enforcement system have become dramatically more robust. The national security threat posed by international terrorism led to the largest reorganization of the federal government since World War II. The overhaul brought about the merger of 22 federal agencies to create the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2003.

Because the 9/11 hijackers obtained valid visas to travel to the United States, despite some being known by U.S. intelligence and having been encountered by law enforcement agencies, the immigration system came under particular scrutiny. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), which had been part of the Department of Justice since 1941, was dissolved and its functions were transferred to three newly created agencies within DHS, as follows:

  • Customs and Border Protection (CBP) oversees the entry of all people and goods at all ports of entry and enforces laws against illegal entry between the ports.
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is responsible for enforcement of immigration and customs requirements in the interior of the United States, including employer requirements, detention, and removals.
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) adjudicates immigrant benefit applications, such as visa petitions, naturalization applications, and asylum and refugee requests, and administers the E-Verify program.

An additional new post-9/11 immigration entity has been US-VISIT, which is housed in the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) of DHS. It manages the IDENT biometric fingerprint information system used by all immigration agencies—including consulates abroad in visa screening—to confirm the identity of noncitizens entering the country.

9/11 also led to the passage of a series of new national security laws with far-reaching implications for noncitizens seeking to travel to or living in the United States. The most well-known is the USA Patriot Act. With regard to immigration, the act expanded the authority of law enforcement agencies to search, monitor, detain, and remove suspected terrorists, and allowed for the detention of foreign nationals for up to seven days before the government files criminal or immigration charges. It also strengthened border enforcement, especially along the northern border with Canada.

Laws that followed include the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002 (EBSVERA), which tightened visa screening, border inspections, and tracking of foreign-born persons, including foreign students, particularly through broad use of biometric fingerprint records. It also served as an impetus to create the US -VISIT program, as the bill mandated information-sharing systems that made national security data available to immigration officers responsible for issuing visas, making removal or admissions decisions, and for investigations and identification of noncitizens.

In June 2002, the U.S. Attorney General began the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), a program that placed extra travel screening requirements on nationals from a list of 25 countries associated with an Al Qaeda presence (and North Korea). Additionally, males over the age of 16 who were nationals of designated NSEERS countries and already living in the United States were required to register with the federal government and appear for "special registration" interviews with immigration officials. The program was discontinued in 2011.

In 2005, the REAL ID Act prohibited states from issuing driver's licenses to unauthorized individuals, and expanded terrorism-related grounds of inadmissibility, removal, and ineligibility for asylum. One year later, the Secure Fence Act of 2006 authorized the completion of 700 miles of fencing along the southwest border with Mexico.

Heightened security and data-sharing measures adopted after the attacks has enabled the government to meet a post-9/11 goal of "pushing the border out." By screening individuals seeking to enter the United States more times and against more databases than ever before, those who pose a threat to the country can be prevented from ever reaching U.S. soil, often times before they even board a plane. This objective is being bolstered by increased collaboration with foreign governments in law enforcement matters and through international agreements that allow bilateral sharing of information such as Passenger Name Records (PNRs).

One immediate result of tightened screening procedures was a dramatic drop in the number of visas the government issued to individuals wishing to visit, work, and live in the United States. Between 2001 and 2002, the number of nonimmigrant visas fell by 24 percent. Present visa issuances have returned to pre-9/11 levels, but it has taken ten years to rebound.

A Profile of Today's Immigrant Population

The U.S. foreign-born population (legal and illegal) is 40.4 million, or 13 percent of the total U.S. population of 311.6 million, according to 2011 American Community Survey estimates. Although this is a numerical high historically, the foreign born make up a smaller percentage of the population today than in 1890 and 1910 when the immigrant share of the population peaked at 15 percent. The foreign-born share fell to a low of 5 percent (9.6 million) in 1970. About 20 percent of all international migrants reside in the United States, which, as a country, accounts for less than 5 percent of the world's population.

The foreign-born population is comprised of approximately 42 percent naturalized citizens, 31 percent permanent residents (green card holders), and 27 percent unauthorized immigrants. Roughly 11.7 million, or 29 percent of the immigrant population is from Mexico, the largest immigration source country. Chinese and Indian immigrants make up the second and third largest immigrant groups, with 1.9 million or 5 percent of the foreign-born population each. In 2010, India replaced the Philippines as the third largest source country (see Table 1). The top three regions of origin of the foreign-born population are Latin America, Asia, and Europe (see Figure 1).

Biden Immigration Changes Raise Hopes, Concerns on US-Mexico Border

LOS ANGELES - On the day U.S. President Joe Biden took office, he began dismantling former President Donald Trump’s policies at the southern U.S.-Mexico border.

Biden rescinded Trump’s declaration of a national emergency, suspended construction of Trump’s controversial border wall, and vowed to end governmental practices of migrant family separation and rapid-fire deportations.

The abrupt shift in policy almost overnight changed conditions and migrant expectations along the border – renewing hope for hundreds of thousands of migrants from Mexico and Central America of a return to more porous borders and pathways to legal status. But it also raised the concern of law enforcement officials and residents about a return of caravans, chaos and potential for violence.

Border policy changes accelerated dramatically this week as reports surfaced the Biden administration intends to release most parents and children seeking asylum within 72 hours of their arrival in the U.S. Rapid processing would include COVID-19 testing and criminal background checks.

The new policy marks a dramatic shift from Trump and Obama administration protocols where families could be detained for up to 21 days. The change is likely to spur even more arrivals of unaccompanied minors and migrant families this year, according to a senior Immigration and Customs Enforcement official.

Still in place, however, is a Trump administration policy that cites the coronavirus pandemic and public health as a reason to deport migrants attempting to enter the country at the border without due process.

Children attempting to cross the border by themselves had been the exception. They can only be detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection for up to three days before another agency looks for a sponsor for the child while awaiting immigration proceedings.

Rising numbers at border

On March 1, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas sought to assure reporters that there was no crisis at the border, just “challenges that we are managing” with existing resources.

But the reality on the ground is quite different from the optimistic picture Mayorkas was painting.

The number of people attempting to cross the border has steadily increased since April 2020. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say worsening economic conditions in Central and South America, exacerbated by the pandemic and natural disasters, are some of the factors that lead people to make the dangerous trip.

Border Angels, the San Diego-based humanitarian organization, reports an increase of families from Mexico migrating north due to drug cartel activity. Central Americans, Haitians and people from African countries are also seeking asylum in the U.S.

Asylum-seekers who desire to enter the U.S. “need to wait. It takes time to rebuild the system from scratch,” Mayorkas said, telling reporters at a White House press briefing that under the Trump administration, the immigration system had been “gutted.”

In January 2021, CPB officers encountered close to 7,500 families attempting to cross into the U.S., compared to just over 4,700 in October 2020. The number of children and single adults arrested for crossing has also increased.

In late February, in the Rio Grande Valley sector of Texas, Chief Patrol Agent Brian Hastings posted on Twitter that more than 500 people, consisting mostly of families and unaccompanied children, tried to cross the border in a 24-hour period.

The level of border apprehensions is not unprecedented. Border Patrol reported apprehending more than 47,000 migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border for the month of January 2019. More than 44,000 were intercepted in January 2009.

‘Remain in Mexico’ asylum-seekers

The changes in U.S. immigration policy are being closely watched by another group of migrants who have been forced to stay in Mexico under Trump's Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). This is also known as the "Remain in Mexico" policy, which allowed border patrol agents to return non-Mexican asylum-seekers to Mexico to wait for their cases to be reviewed and processed.

The rapid-fire changes in immigration policy under the new administration have been confusing to some of the MPP asylum-seekers. Dulce Garcia, executive director of Border Angels, which supports 15 shelters in Mexico for asylum-seekers waiting to have their cases heard in the U.S., says half of a shelter's residents recently set out to try their luck at the border.

“About a quarter came back after being rejected,” she said, “and the other quarter is what is really concerning to us, because we think that maybe they are trying (to cross the border) through the desert.”

U.S. officials have been working with humanitarian organizations to begin processing the approximately 25,000 people in the MPP program. Beginning February 19, the first group of 25 people who had been waiting in Mexico entered the U.S. in San Diego, California. Mayorkas said officials are increasing the number of ports that are processing asylum-seekers as well as the number of people being processed.

“From what we see, in what their policies suggest is a much more humane and protection-focused policy. This includes recognition of various forms of persecution, recognizing things such as gang violence and domestic violence,” said Ellen Beattie, senior director of program quality and innovation at the International Rescue Committee.

A task force is working on reuniting families separated under the Trump administration. If the families reunite in the U.S., the Biden administration is exploring lawful pathways for them to remain in the country.

Other than asylum-seekers

While agents are seeing an increase of families and unaccompanied children attempting to cross or being smuggled across the border, they also see more serious criminal activity.

Border patrol agents said a combination of a border wall, manpower and technology will help them to do their jobs.

In February alone, agents in the Texas Rio Grande Sector have uncovered hundreds of pounds of drugs, such as cocaine, as well as arrested convicted sex offenders trying to reenter the U.S.

Texas rancher Chloe Wilson has seen a “significant increase in traffic” in the area where she lives in Southwest Texas more than 100 kilometers from the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as on her family’s properties near the border.

“These are criminals that are hauling drugs, people and children. These are not good people that are coming across. They’re in full military fatigues and work boots. These people are prepared. It’s not just people seeking asylum. It’s men carrying cocaine and marijuana. We see them during the day and throughout the night,” said Wilson, who added she had witnessed mainly men with backpacks and guns.

She said criminal elements from south of the Texas border are not limited to the border areas but are traveling deep into Texas.

The right time

Mayra Flores, a U.S. citizen originally from Mexico, is the wife of a border patrol agent. She sees the increase in migrants trying to cross the border and fears for the border patrol agents as well as her community in South Texas.

She says the cartels profit from smuggling people across the border and endanger migrants trying to cross.

“Cameron County and Hidalgo County (Texas), we have one of the highest poverty rates in the United States … they don’t have the resources” to absorb the new migrants at a time when many places in the U.S. are still facing unemployment rates due to the coronavirus, Flores said.

“We need to decrease the COVID-19 situation here in South Texas,” said Flores, who has decided to run for U.S. Congress. “It’s putting our border patrol agents at risk, it’s putting everyone at risk. It’s putting our community at risk.”

Department of Homeland Security said asylum-seekers are being tested for COVID-19 before they are allowed to enter the U.S. However, news outlet Noticias Telemundo Investiga reported some migrants in Brownsville, Texas, who were planning to travel to other parts of the country, had tested positive for COVID-19 after being released by Border Patrol.

“No time is a good time for an asylum-seeker,” said Vino Pajanor, chief executive director of Catholic Charities Diocese of San Diego.

29 photos that show the US-Mexico border's evolution over 100 years

One of the Trump administration's latest immigration policies has come under fire, after Homeland Security figures revealed that ICE is separating families at the US-Mexico border.

Between May 5 and June 9, border officials separated more than 2,300 children from 2,206 parents, the DHS said Tuesday. The policy, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in early May, enforces "zero-tolerance" regulations on those who enter the US without documentation. Any migrant who attempts to cross the southern border — even those seeking asylum — is now being prosecuted.

Following mounting pressure from both sides of the aisle, Trump signed an executive order that he said will stop family separation at the border. But the fate of immigrant children already in custody remains unclear, and the order still faces legal obstacles.

The goal of establishing a firm physical boundary to separate the US from Mexico is nothing new. In the country that has the world's largest immigrant population, American presidential administrations have tried tightening security along the border for around a century.

Though the divide was formally established in 1824, the US didn't launch its official Border Patrol until 1924. Inspection and holding stations were created after that, followed by the construction of miles of fences with barbed wire and steel barriers over the next few decades.

January 8, 2019: Trump makes case for border barrier in televised address Democratic leadership rejects request

In the televised address from the Oval Office on January 8, 2019, President Donald Trump said that there was a humanitarian and security crisis at the southern border, and he called on members of Congress to allocate $5.7 billion to build a wall or steel barrier to protect the nation. He said, “At the request of Democrats, it will be a steel barrier rather than a concrete wall. This barrier is absolutely critical to border security. It’s also what our professionals at the border want and need.” Ώ]

In making his case for the barrier, Trump said that individuals who enter the country without legal permission from the southern border strain public resources and drive down jobs and wages. He also said that some drugs and criminals enter the country through the southern border, harming Americans. Ώ]

In response to those, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who “have suggested a barrier is immoral,” Trump said, “Then why do wealthy politicians build walls, fences, and gates around their homes? They don’t build walls because they hate the people on the outside, but because they love the people on the inside. The only thing that is immoral is the politicians to do nothing and continue to allow more innocent people to be so horribly victimized.” Ώ]

The address took place on the 18th day of a partial government shutdown. Trump said that he would not sign legislation to reopen the government if it did not include border funding.

Immediately after Trump’s speech, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), issued a televised response rejecting Trump’s request for a border wall and calling on him to reopen the government. Pelosi said, “President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis, and must reopen the government.” ΐ]

Schumer said that Democrats supported border security measures, but “disagree with the president about the most effective way to do it.” Schumer also criticized Trump for creating a crisis that he said did not exist. Schumer said, “This president just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear, and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration.” ΐ]

In his address, Trump did not declare a national emergency over border security, something he said that he was considering. “Federal law allows the president to halt military construction projects and divert those funds for the emergency,” according to The Wall Street Journal. Democrats said that they would challenge Trump’s declaration in court if issued. ⎪] ⎫]

Thank you!

But, though the reasoning for ICE’s establishment had to do with terrorism, the philosophy behind it also represented a change in the U.S. government’s view of immigrants, says María Cristina García, a professor of history at Cornell University.

“Immigration matters were once handled by the Department of Commerce, then the Department of Labor,” García tells TIME. “Today it&rsquos the Department of Homeland Security.”

As García explains, knowing which department handles the matter “reveals a great deal about how a society views immigration.” If immigration is an economic or work-force issue, it would make sense to place it under the oversight of departments that deal with those issues. Placing immigration in the national security sector, however, reveals a changed focus on the idea of potential safety threats represented by immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees.

That shift didn’t start with the attacks of 2001. Immigration had been mixed in with national-security issues during the Clinton administration, too, especially after the first World Trade Center bombing on Feb. 26, 1993. García points out that, in subsequent years, Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA), which, experts say, was designed to curtail immigration from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. Deportations increased after these 1996 policies ramped up security at the U.S.-Mexico border and the penalties for unauthorized entry into the U.S., but the rhetoric linking immigration and national security “really takes off after 9/11,” García says, and the establishment of ICE was part of that.

But some historians say that the effort to make Americans feel safer and help make the border-control system more efficient ended up creating other problems. One big issue is that some of the various agencies under the DHS umbrella had conflicting responsibilities &mdash a problem that García says is linked to today’s calls to eliminate or revamp the agency.

“You have within the Department of Homeland Security agencies that have contradictory missions,” García says. “You have, on the one hand, an agency entrusted with preventing another terrorist attack, then you have agencies that deal with refugees and that requires a humanitarian [approach]. Refugee advocates, in particular, doubt that the U.S. can honor its humanitarian obligations if the inclination is to automatically assume that refugees and asylum seekers are potential terrorists.”

Whether ICE will get a makeover or not, lawmakers have already taken some action in response to critics. While national politicians debate the issue, some cities nationwide have tried to extract themselves from the complicated workings of the agency. For example, Williamson County, Texas, commissioner Terry Cook &mdash whose county abolished their contracts with ICE to house detainees who are awaiting hearings &mdash told the New York Times that the controversy over the ethics of working with the agency had become too big a distraction from day-to-day county business. &ldquoWe did not need,” she said, “to be in the middle of this.&rdquo

Style or substance? Kamala Harris' duties pile up as border crisis goes unresolved

Vice President Kamala Harris’ portfolio runneth over.

In just her first three months in office, Ms. Harris has amassed responsibility for controlling the porous southern border, directing U.S. competitiveness in outer space, extending broadband service back on Earth, selling the president’s multitrillion-dollar jobs bills, unionizing the U.S. workforce, coordinating relations with world leaders, advocating for the rights of women and girls, serving as a watchdog on social equity issues and preventing the planet from overheating.

That list probably omitted a few of the vice president’s ever-expanding duties. It’s early.

Republicans say it’s another sign that Ms. Harris and the liberal wing of the Democratic Party are calling the shots in the White House. Some outside observers say it’s doubtful that a vice president can effectively manage so many policy priorities effectively.

“I don’t think she can really handle that many responsibilities at one time, but I think there is a symbolic value in doing that,” said Sangay Mishra, an assistant political science professor at Drew University in New Jersey and an advisory board member of the Kamala Harris Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group of scholars examining her term in office.

Mr. Mishra said the administration wants Ms. Harris, the first female vice president and the first vice president of South Asian and Black heritage, to be in the forefront of many policy priorities for political impact.

“I do feel that the administration has come to rely on her, both for her expertise and her ability to deal with issues, but also for political reasons in the sense that the symbolism of her being there, and what she represents, and the constituents that she speaks to, is part of what is happening,” he said. “That’s the reason why you see so many assignments being given to her.”

Ms. Harris’ responsibility for the migrant crisis has drawn the most fire from Republicans. She has focused on diplomatic efforts with Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador while rebuffing calls to visit the border region to see the impact firsthand.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn, North Carolina Republican, mocked Ms. Harris’ assertion that a lack of “climate resilience” in Central American countries is partly responsible for the surge of illegal crossings of the U.S. border. “It probably has more to do with your radical open border policies, Kamala — nice try trying to shift the blame though,” Mr. Cawthorn tweeted. The conservative lawmaker introduced a “Donument” bill last month that would protect the southern border wall built by President Trump by creating a national monument to the barrier.

Mr. Biden told Congress that he delegated responsibility to Ms. Harris for the migration problem because “I have absolute confidence she will get the job done.”

In a virtual meeting with Ms. Harris on migration Friday, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador praised President Biden’s decision to delegate responsibility to his vice president.

“It is my hope that this will be a permanent and constant relationship between us,” Mr. Lopez Obrador told Ms. Harris through a translator. “I believe that this was a very positive, a very good decision, and we thank President Biden for naming you to lead all things related to migration. This is a topic, as I understand, that is very important to President Biden, as you have been appointed, as vice president, to lead all efforts regarding these issues.”

The administration announced recently that Ms. Harris will head the National Space Council, a traditional role for the vice president. The council oversees national security, technological development and commercial growth in space.

Senior administration officials said Ms. Harris will focus on “sustainable development” of space commerce, climate change, peaceful borders and responsible behaviors in space, plus STEM education and diversity in the workforce.

Asked how Ms. Harris’ work would differ from that of predecessor Mike Pence at the National Space Council, a Biden official said, “I think her approach to this is just going to be to get the job done, and use this to lead our space policy, and not really focus perhaps as much on big displays.”

A former senior Trump administration official who worked on space and border issues said the Biden team is mischaracterizing Mr. Pence’s contributions.

“Pence went down to two shuttle launches. If that’s a display, I think that that shows support, it conveys that space is a priority,” the former official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “He went over to NASA for a Space Council meeting and celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Space Force. Those were important priorities for that administration. If somebody is being critical of ‘big displays,’ I’m not sure that they understand how to show that things are a priority to the American people. And by that logic, Biden or Harris not doing a big visit to the border would convey that it’s not a priority for them.”

The former Trump official said the Biden White House “certainly attempted to make a big deal about Harris leading the Space Council.”

“But that’s a role that’s traditionally filled by the vice president, so it shouldn’t have come as any surprise that that’s a responsibility she was going to take on,” the source said. “Juggling multiple priorities is definitely doable if you have the energy and focus on accomplishing those. I think that the key difference when Pence was given responsibilities in the Trump administration, he dove in head first. Harris hasn’t been to the border at all.”

The vice president’s office didn’t respond to questions about how she plans to effectively manage the broad range of policy priorities or whether she intends to hire more staff to help her.

It’s clear that Ms. Harris has become a foil for Republicans, who are fundraising off her name and warning voters about her far-left influence.

Upon hearing that Ms. Harris will be leading the National Space Council, Rep. Andy Biggs, Arizona Republican, tweeted, “Goodbye space programs.”

The Democratic-majority House Committee on Science, Space and Technology called Ms. Harris “an inspiration to young women across the nation” and said as chair of the Space Council, “she is a role model for the next generation of women” in science and math careers.

Mr. Mishra said Republicans are making what amounts to “a good political move” by saying Mr. Biden is delegating to Ms. Harris because he is not capable of handling all the responsibilities.

“Kamala Harris is associated with the more progressive left, the minority caucus, the abolish-the-police, that kind of crowd, which is now controlling the White House,” he said of the Republican view. “So it’s more of a political move than an actual reading of the situation.”


The United States Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787. Article I, section 8, clause 4 of the Constitution expressly gives the United States Congress the power to establish a uniform rule of naturalization. [1]

Pursuant to this power, Congress in 1790 passed the first naturalization law for the United States, the Naturalization Act of 1790. The law enabled those who had resided in the country for two years and had kept their current state of residence for a year to apply for citizenship. However it restricted naturalization to "free white persons" of "good moral character".

The Naturalization Act of 1795 increased the residency requirement to five years residence and added a requirement to give a three years notice of intention to apply for citizenship, and the Naturalization Act of 1798 further increased the residency requirement to 14 years and required five years notice of intent to apply for citizenship.

The Naturalization Law of 1802 repealed and replaced the Naturalization Act of 1798.

The Fourteenth Amendment, based on the Civil Rights Act of 1866, was passed in 1868 to provide citizenship for former slaves. The 1866 Act read, "That all persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States and such citizens, of every race and color, without regard to any previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude" shall have the same rights "as is enjoyed by white citizens." The phrase in the Fourteenth Amendment reversed the conditional clause to read: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." This was applied by the Supreme Court in the 1898 case United States v. Wong Kim Ark to deal with the child of Chinese citizens who were legally resident in the U.S. at the time of his birth, with exceptions such as for the children of diplomats and American Indians. See the articles jus soli (birthplace) and jus sanguinis (bloodline) for further discussion.

In 1870, the law was broadened to allow blacks to be naturalized. [2] Asian immigrants were excluded from naturalization but not from living in the United States. There were also significant restrictions on some Asians at the state level in California, for example, non-citizen Asians were not allowed to own land.

The first federal statute restricting immigration was the Page Act, passed in 1875. It barred immigrants considered "undesirable," defining this as a person from East Asia who was coming to the United States to be a forced laborer, any East Asian woman who would engage in prostitution, and all people considered to be convicts in their own country. In practice, it resulted mainly in barring entry to Chinese women.

After the immigration of 123,000 Chinese in the 1870s, who joined the 105,000 who had immigrated between 1850 and 1870, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 which limited further Chinese immigration. Chinese had immigrated to the Western United States as a result of unsettled conditions in China, the availability of jobs working on railroads, and the Gold Rush that was going on at that time in California. The expression "Yellow Peril" became popular at this time.

The act excluded Chinese laborers from immigrating to the United States for ten years and was the first immigration law passed by Congress. Laborers in the United States and laborers with work visas received a certificate of residency and were allowed to travel in and out of the United States. Amendments made in 1884 tightened the provisions that allowed previous immigrants to leave and return, and clarified that the law applied to ethnic Chinese regardless of their country of origin. The act was renewed in 1892 by the Geary Act for another ten years, and in 1902 with no terminal date. It was repealed in 1943, although large scale Chinese immigration did not occur until 1965. [ citation needed ]

The Empire of Japan's State Department negotiated the so-called Gentlemen's Agreement in 1907, a protocol where Japan agreed to stop issuing passports to its citizens who wanted to emigrate to the United States. In practice, the Japanese government compromised with its prospective emigrants and continued to give passports to the Territory of Hawaii where many Japanese resided. Once in Hawaii, it was easy for the Japanese to continue on to Japanese settlements on the west coast if they so desired. In the decade of 1901 to 1910, 129,000 Japanese immigrated to the continental United States or Hawaii nearly all were males and on five-year work contracts and 117,000 more came in the decades from 1911 to 1930. How many of them stayed and how many returned at the end of their contracts is unknown but it is estimated that about one-half returned. Again this immigrant flow was at least 80% male and the demand for female Japanese immigrants almost immediately arose. This need was met in part by what are called "postcard wives" who immigrated to new husbands who had chosen them on the basis of their pictures (similar marriages also occurred in nearly all cultures throughout the female-scarce west). The Japanese government finally quit issuing passports to the Territory of Hawaii for single women in the 1920s.

Congress also banned persons because of poor health or lack of education. An 1882 law banned entry of "lunatics" and infectious disease carriers. After President William McKinley was assassinated by an anarchist of immigrant parentage, Congress enacted the Anarchist Exclusion Act in 1903 to exclude known anarchist agitators. [3] A literacy requirement was added in the Immigration Act of 1917.

1920s Edit

In 1921 the United States Congress passed the Emergency Quota Act, which established national immigration quotas. The quotas were based on the number of foreign-born residents of each nationality who were living in the United States as of the 1910 census. [4]

The crucial 1923 Supreme Court case United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind created the official stance to classify South Asian Indians as non-white, which at the time allowed Indians who had already been naturalized to be retroactively stripped of their citizenship after prosecutors argued that they had gained their citizenship illegally. [5] The California Alien Land Law of 1913 (overturned in 1952 by the holding in Sei Fujii v. California, 38 Cal. 2d 718) and other similar laws prohibited aliens from owning land property, thus effectively stripping Indian Americans of land rights. The decision placated Asiatic Exclusion League demands and growing outrage at the so-called Turban Tide/Hindoo Invasion [sic] and "Yellow Peril". While more recent legislation influenced by the civil rights movement has removed much of the statutory discrimination against Asians, no case has overturned the classification of Indians as non-white.

A more complex quota plan, the National Origins Formula, replaced this "emergency" system under the Immigration Act of 1924 (Johnson-Reed Act), which set quotas on the number of immigrants from the Eastern Hemisphere, and effectively banned all immigration from Asia. [6] [7] The reference census used was changed to that of 1890, [7] which greatly reduced the number of Southern and Eastern European immigrants. An annual ceiling of 154,227 was set for the Eastern Hemisphere.

A 1929 act added provisions for prior deportees, who, 60 days after the act took effect, would be convicted of a felony whether their deportation occurred before or after the law was enacted. [8]

1930s–50s Edit

In 1932 President Hoover and the State Department essentially shut down immigration during the Great Depression as immigration went from 236,000 in 1929 to 23,000 in 1933. This was accompanied by voluntary repatriation to Europe and Mexico, and coerced repatriation and deportation of between 500,000 and 2 million Mexican Americans, mostly citizens, in the Mexican Repatriation. Total immigration in the decade of 1931 to 1940 was 528,000 averaging less than 53,000 a year.

The Chinese exclusion laws were repealed in 1943. The Luce–Celler Act of 1946 ended discrimination against Indian Americans and Filipinos, who were accorded the right to naturalization, and allowed a quota of 100 immigrants per year.

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (the McCarran-Walter Act) revised the quotas again, basing them on the 1920 census. For the first time in American history, racial distinctions were omitted from the U.S. Code. As could be expected, most of the quota allocation went to immigrants from Ireland, the United Kingdom and Germany who already had relatives in the United States. [ citation needed ] The anti-subversive features of this law are still in force. [ citation needed ]

1960s Edit

The Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1965 (the Hart-Celler Act) abolished the system of national-origin quotas. There was, for the first time, a limitation on Western Hemisphere immigration (120,000 per year), with the Eastern Hemisphere limited to 170,000. The law changed the preference system for immigrants. Specifically, the law provided preference to immigrants with skills needed in the U.S. workforce, refugees and asylum seekers, as well as family members of U.S. citizens. Family reunification became the cornerstone of the bill. At the time, the then-chairman of the Senate Immigration Subcommittee Edward Kennedy remarked that "the bill will not flood our cities with immigrants. It will not upset the ethnic mix of our society. It will not relax the standards of admission. It will not cause American workers to lose their jobs." (U.S. Senate, Subcommittee on Immigration and Naturalization of the Committee on the Judiciary, Washington, D.C., Feb. 10, 1965. pp. 1–3.)

1980s Edit

The Refugee Act of 1980 established policies for refugees, redefining "refugee" according to United Nations norms. A target for refugees was set at 50,000 and the worldwide ceiling for immigrants was reduced to 270,000 annually.

In 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) was passed, creating for the first time penalties for employers who knowingly hired undocumented immigrants. IRCA also contained an amnesty for about 3 million undocumented immigrants already in the United States, and mandated the intensification of some of the activities of the United States Border Patrol or INS (now part of Department of Homeland Security).

1990s Edit

The U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, led by former Rep. Barbara Jordan, ran from 1990 to 1997. The Commission covered many facets of immigration policy, but started from the perception that the "credibility of immigration policy can be measured by a simple yardstick: people who should get in, do get in people who should not get in, are kept out and people who are judged deportable are required to leave". [9] From there, in a series of four reports, the commission looked at all aspects of immigration policy. [10] In the first, it found that enforcement was lax and needed improvement on the border and internally. For internal enforcement, it recommended that an automated employment verification system be created to enable employers to distinguish between legal and illegal workers. The second report discussed legal immigration issues and suggested that immediate family members and skilled workers receive priority. The third report covered refugee and asylum issues. Finally, the fourth report reiterated the major points of the previous reports and the need for a new immigration policy. Few of these suggestions were implemented.

The Immigration Act of 1990 (IMMACT) modified and expanded the 1965 act it significantly increased the total immigration limit to 700,000 and increased visas by 40 percent. Family reunification was retained as the main immigration criterion, with significant increases in employment-related immigration.

Several pieces of legislation signed into law in 1996 marked a turn towards harsher policies for both legal and illegal immigrants. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) and Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) vastly increased the categories of criminal activity for which immigrants, including green card holders, can be deported and imposed mandatory detention for certain types of deportation cases. As a result, well over 2 million individuals have been deported since 1996. [11]

The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 affected American perspectives on many issues, including immigration. A total of 20 foreign terrorists were involved, 19 of whom took part in the attacks that caused the deaths of 2,977 victims, most of them civilians. The terrorists had entered the United States on tourist or student visas. Four of them, however, had violated the terms of their visas. The attack exposed long-standing weaknesses in the U.S. immigration system that included failures in the areas of visa processing, internal enforcement, and information sharing. [12]

The REAL ID Act of 2005 changed some visa limits, tightened restrictions on asylum applications and made it easier to exclude suspected terrorists, and removed restrictions on building border fences.

In 2005, Senators John McCain and Ted Kennedy revived the discussion of comprehensive immigration reform with the proposal of the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, incorporating legalization, guest worker programs, and enhanced border security. The bill was never voted on in the Senate, but portions are incorporated in later Senate proposals.

In 2006, the House of Representatives and the Senate produced their own, conflicting bills. In December 2005, the House passed the Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, which was sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI). The act was limited to enforcement and focused on both the border and the interior. In the Senate, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 (CIRA) was sponsored by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) and passed in May 2006. CIRA would have given a path to eventual citizenship to a majority of undocumented immigrants already in the country as well as dramatically increased legal immigration. Although the bills passed their respective chambers, no compromise bill emerged. [13]

In 2007, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 was discussed in the Senate, which would have given a path to eventual citizenship to a large majority of illegal entrants in the country, significantly increased legal immigration and increased enforcement. The bill failed to pass a cloture vote, essentially killing it. [14]

Individual components of various reform packages have been separately introduced and pursued in the Congress. The DREAM Act is a bill initially introduced in 2001, incorporated in the various comprehensive reform bills, and then separately reintroduced in 2009 and 2010. The bill would provide legal residency and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who graduate from U.S. high schools and attend college or join the military.

Immigrant visa limits set by Congress remain at 700,000 for the combined categories of employment, family preference, and family immediate. There are additional provisions for diversity and a small number of special visas. In 2008 immigration in these categories totaled slightly less than 750,000 and similar totals (representing maximums allowed by Congress) have been tallied in recent years. [15]

Naturalization numbers have ranged from about 500,000 to just over 1,000,000 per year since the early 1990s, with peak years in 1996 and 2008 each around 1,040,000. These numbers add up to more than the number of visas issued in those years because as many as 2.7 million of those who were granted amnesty by IRCA in 1986 have converted or will convert to citizenship. [16] In general, immigrants become eligible for citizenship after five years of residence. Many do not immediately apply, or do not pass the test on the first attempt. This means that the counts for visas and the counts for naturalization will always remain out of step, though in the long run the naturalizations add up to somewhat less than the visas.

These numbers are separate from illegal immigration, which peaked at probably over 1 million per year around the year 2000 and has probably declined to about 500,000 per year by 2009, which seems comparable or perhaps less than the outflow returning to their native countries. [17] Some of the legal immigrant categories may include former illegal immigrants who have come current on legal applications and passed background checks these individuals are included in the count of legal visas, not as a separate or additional number.

For Mexico and the Philippines, the only categories of immigrant visa available in practice are those for immediate dependent family of U.S. citizens. Persons who applied since 1994 have not been in the categories for adult children and siblings, and trends show that these data are unlikely to change. In fact, the trend has recently been moving in the opposite direction. Immigrant work visas run about 6 to 8 years behind current. [ clarification needed ] [ citation needed ] While the government does not publish data on the number of pending applications, the evidence is that the backlog in those categories dwarfs the yearly quotas.

Legal immigration visas should not be confused with temporary work permits. Permits for seasonal labor (about 285,000 in 2008) or students (about 917,000 in 2008) [18] generally do not permit conversion to immigrant status. Even those who are legally authorized to work temporarily in the United States (such as H1-B workers) must apply for permanent residence separately, and gain no advantage from their temporary employment authorization. This is unlike many other countries, whose laws provide for permanent residence after a certain number of years of legal employment. Temporary workers, therefore, do not form a distinctly counted source of immigration. [19]

Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act 2010 (Arizona SB 1070) Edit

Under Arizona SB 1070, passed in 2010, it is a state misdemeanor for immigrants not to carry their immigration documents on their person while in Arizona, and people who are stopped or arrested by state police for any reason may be subject to verification of their immigration status. Arizona state or local officials and agencies cannot restrict enforcement of federal immigration laws. Anyone sheltering, hiring or transporting an undocumented immigrant is subject to penalty.

Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act 2013 (S.744) Edit

On April 17, 2013, the so-called "Gang of Eight" in the United States Senate introduced S.744, the long-awaited Senate version of the immigration reform bill proposed in Congress. [20] Text of the proposed legislation was promptly released on the website of Senator Charles Schumer. On June 27, 2013, the Senate passed the bill on 68-32 margin. The bill has not been taken up by the United States House of Representatives. [21]

Executive actions Edit

On November 21, 2014, president Barack Obama signed two executive actions which had the effect of delaying deportation for millions of illegal immigrants. The orders apply to parents of United States citizens (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans) and young people brought into the country illegally (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). [22]

Watch the video: LECTURE ON LAW ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION Part 1 (January 2022).