Illegal immigration in the U.S. has reached a boiling point. While a struggling economy has decreased the level of illegal immigration into the U.S., it has also been a catalyst for a wave of anti-immigration sentiment. Congress is in the midst of a heated debate regarding how to handle illegal immigration with Democrats and liberals advocating an approach that equitably deals with the 12 million illegal immigrants already residing in the U.S. and Republicans and conservatives pushing for tougher enforcement and tactics designed to keep illegal immigrants out. In an effort to satisfy both parties, the Obama administration has thrown its support behind legislation such as the DREAM Act while concurrently doubling manpower and financing to the U.S.-Mexico border and approving an increase in worksite investigations. These methods have resulted in a record number of illegal immigrant apprehensions and deportations. Here are some statistics concerning apprehensions and deportations.
• Since taking office, the Obama administration has seen the deportation of almost 800,000 illegal immigrants. This is a new record.
• Since the beginning of fiscal year 2011, 88,497 illegal aliens have been deported to the Caribbean and Latin America alone.
• Since the beginning of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Secure Communities program, in which only “serious criminals” were to be deported, 101,000 illegal aliens have been deported as a direct result of the program. 32 percent of them had no criminal record.
• Between October 2010 and April 2011, 215,900 illegal aliens have been deported. 109,700 were convicted criminals of which 585 were convicted of homicide, 3,177 were convicted sex offenders, and 24,593 were convicted of drug-related crimes.
• The U.S. Border Patrol estimates that only one out of four illegal immigrants is caught at the border.
• In fiscal year 2010, 30,729 illegal immigrants were apprehended at California-Mexico border checkpoints.
• At border checkpoints in all states bordering Mexico (California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas), 463,382 illegal immigrants were apprehended in fiscal year 2010. Only 59,017 were not Mexican nationals. 18,406 were Guatemalan nationals, 13,723 were from El Salvador, and 13,580 were from Honduras.
• In fiscal year 2010, Border agents apprehended 663 “Aliens from Special Interest Countries.” These countries have suspected ties to terrorist organizations.
• Many apprehended illegal immigrants were from the U.S. Department of State’s country list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism.” 712 apprehensions were Cuban nationals, 14 were Iranian nationals, 5 were Syrians, and 5 were Sudanese. Also, from “special interest countries, “ 9 apprehensions were Somali nationals, 9 were from Afghanistan, 37 were from Pakistan, 5 were from Saudi Arabia, and 11 were from Yemen.
• U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) estimates that only 43 percent of the 1,969 mile-long U.S.-Mexico border is under “operational control.”
• At least 12 million illegal immigrants currently reside in the U.S. It is logistically impossible and expensive to deport them all.
The debate is indeed tricky. By all accounts, U.S. immigration agencies are working hard to do their jobs but under no circumstances will illegal immigration be completely stopped—that is until the U.S. becomes an undesirable place to live. A two-fold approach that offers some pathway to legality for the illegal immigrants in the U.S. and commits to border security and enforcement is likely the only way to deal with this issue. Comprehensive immigration reform is currently being proposed in the U.S. Senate, but provisions offering “amnesty” to the illegal immigrants living in the U.S. will make it a tough sell to Republicans even though the bill includes measures for more border security and tougher enforcement.