Illegal Entries Decline, Focus on Deportations Ramps Up
For the first time in decades, more people are facing deportation from inside the U.S. than are being arrested at the border for trying to enter the country illegally. Surprisingly, these records numbers have occurred during the Obama administration.
In the 2011 fiscal year, which ended on September 30, Immigration and Customs Enforcement set a record by deporting 396,906 people. This was the third record-breaking year in a row, exceeding the number of deportations in 2010 by more than 4,000.
Meanwhile, the number of border-crossing arrests has been dropping steadily for the past six years. Border Patrol agents report that they made 93,000 fewer arrests in 2010 than the year before, a decrease of about 17 percent. This year, arrests at the border fell by an additional 25 percent, to 327,577 – just one-fifth of the record high set in 2000 at 1.6 million arrests.
Many Factors Affect Law Enforcement Focus
A number of different forces are at work behind the shifting of tides in the enforcement of our immigration laws. At the border, would-be immigrants have been deterred in recent years by increased Border Patrol presence, secondary inspections and increased security. Due to this effort, many aliens have been apprehended in activities that would have weakened the U.S. economy further. These efforts have also increased foreign smuggling efforts.
Meanwhile, within the nation, new policies such as the Secure Communities program, which now has 100% participation in most states and which checks the immigration status of people fingerprinted by state and local law enforcement to determine their status in the United States, have caused a sharp uptick in removal proceedings capturing those who have committed serious crimes or people who are in the country without authorization or who entered the United States illegally.
Undocumented Immigrants Should Take Action Now
With illegal entries in decline, the immigration spotlight is likely to shift onto locating, and placing into removal proceedings, the estimated 10.2 million adults and 1 million children who are living in the U.S. illegally by either entering the country without inspection; staying in the U.S. without having gone through the required petition or application process; have over stayed their legal entry; or who have been deported and never left the United States.
In many cases, deportation of those individuals may disrupt families and communities as these individuals have been living in the U.S. for years or even decades without being detected. Reports show an estimated 85 percent of undocumented adults have lived in the country for at least five years, while 35 percent have been here for 15 years or longer.
People who are currently living in the U.S. without authorization may be able to avoid potential detention and removal by hiring proper legal representation, not using notarios, and by applying for proper documentation now, especially in light of the 2011 Morton Memo and if the individual can prove the required hardship factors. Depending on the hardship circumstances of the alien, a number of different forms of relief may be available to these individuals.
Because the application process can be complicated and the cost of mistakes is often quite high, anyone applying for any benefit or got authorization to live in the U.S. should be sure to contact an experienced immigration lawyer or immigration attorney for assistance in preparing and submitting the necessary applications and petitions.