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Broken Bridges, Closed Doors, Narrow Paths: The US Immigration System.

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Presentation on theme: "Broken Bridges, Closed Doors, Narrow Paths: The US Immigration System."— Presentation transcript:

1 Broken Bridges, Closed Doors, Narrow Paths: The US Immigration System

2 Video: A New Dream

3 Broken Bridges, Closed Doors, Narrow Paths: The US Immigration System

4 US Immigration History US policy remained completely open to immigration, without any federal restrictions on who could immigrate, until the 1880s The “golden door” began to close in 1882, with the Chinese Exclusion Act By the 1920s, in a backlash to the great wave of immigrants through Ellis Island, immigration to the US was tightly limited based on national origin, and a visa was required for the first time to enter the US Immigration policy changed again in 1965, switching to a family- and employment-based system

5 Immigration Quotas Have not been revised since 1965

6 Republican Debate on Immigration

7 Our Immigration System Today The current structure of US immigration law provides four basic ways to get a “green card” (i.e. become a legal immigrant) –Family –Employment –Diversity Lottery –Refugee/Asylum

8 A broken immigration system "To the back of the line" Visa Bulletin Feb 2013 If the letter "C" is designated, this means that an immigrant visa for the category is current (immediately available) for all priority dates. If a date is designated instead of the letter "C", a visa is available for foreign nationals with priority dates of that date or earlier.

9 Family-Based Immigration –At least 226,000 visas available annually US citizens and Legal Permanent Residents can file for their immediate families Problem: However, due to per-country limits and a limited numbers of visas, there is a large backlog In some cases, wait times can be up to 20 years (for Filipino siblings of US citizens)

10 Employment-Based Immigration –140,000 Permanent Resident visas annually Primarily for immigrants with “extraordinary ability” and “holding advanced degrees” Problems: –Less than 10,000 permanent visas per year for “unskilled” laborers, even though our economy requires many more workers in low-wage jobs –Even permanent visas for highly-skilled workers are back-logged, because demand is greater than the number of visas available under the law

11 Diversity Lottery –50,000 visas issued annually Must have high school education or two years of professional experience to apply Odds of winning the 2010 lottery were 1 in 272 No Visa Lottery for –Mexico, the Philippines, India, China, Canada, Haiti, El Salvador, England, South Korea, and Poland, among others

12 Refugees and Asylees –About 50,000 to 80,000 refugees annually in recent years –25,000 individuals granted asylum per year, on average Legally, refugees and asylees are individuals whom the US recognizes as fleeing or facing a legitimate fear of persecution on account of: –Race –Religion –National Origin –Political Opinion –Membership in a Particular Social Group –(not poverty, natural disasters, health issues, fear of criminal activity, etc.)

13 We can tell people “immigrate the legal way” and to “wait their turn in line,” but for many there is no line to get into For those who do have the right relationship to a US citizen, the “line” can last for more than two decades! Millions have come anyway, either by crossing a border or overstaying a temporary visa (60%), and are now undocumented

14 Scenarios

15 Broken system Long waits for family reunification Not enough work visas No legal path for many Poverty, conflict, etc., driving people from their homes Family, opportunities, safety, drawing them to the U.S.

16 Enforcement only No federal policy changes –Only failed attempts to fix what is broken Enforcement –Border security –Increased criminal penalties –Massive increase in detention and deportation

17 Consequences Huge economic costs –Militarization, mass incarceration –Immigrant communities Terror Broken families –Children separated from parents –Spouses separated

18 Video: Lost in Detention /lost-in-detention/ /lost-in-detention/ Discussion

19 Enforcement Immigration violations are administrative infractions, not criminal Operation Streamline –Criminal penalties for border crossers: First offense: up to 6 months Second offense: up to 20 years

20 Enforcement Secure Communities –Using local law enforcement –Fingerprints sent to FBI and ICE –Immigrants now afraid to report crimes –Sheriffs speaking out –Some cities and states trying to reject

21 Mass detentions New criminal penalties, deportation quotas, lead to mass detentions 34,000 detention beds -multicultural/lost-in-detention/map-the-u-s- immigration-detention-boom/ -multicultural/lost-in-detention/map-the-u-s- immigration-detention-boom/

22 Mass detention, deportation Focus on “serious criminals”? Those who pose a threat to public safety? –Less than half of those deported have significant criminal convictions –Others have minor convictions Drug possession Immigration-related

23 Mass detention, deportation Who? –Long time residents –No criminal history –Asylum seekers/torture survivors –Victims of trafficking –People with US citizenship claims –Legal Permanent Residents with relief –Others (e.g., elderly, mentally/physically ill

24 Mass detention, deportation How long? –Months, years Where? –Shipped hundreds of miles away –No access to attorneys, family Conditions? –Terrible (Tent City) –No recourse for abuse

25 Who suffers? 400,000+ deportations per year 46,000 parents with U.S. citizen children deported in first half of 2011 Over 5000 children currently in foster care

26 Border enforcement 670 miles of border fencing/walls since 2007 –$4 billion 21,000 border patrol agents (9000 in 2001) $18 billion/year on immigration enforcement –More than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined

27 Border




31 Deaths in the Desert Oct 2011 – Sept 2012: –179 bodies found in desert* *Coalición de Derechos Humanos Arizona.

32 Border enforcement Unintended consequences –Increased enforcement  increase in undocumented population –Environment, endangered species –Landowners, business, tourism –Cross border communities

33 Does enforcement work? 136+ –Number of deaths crossing Berlin Wall, 1961-89 4,000+ –Number of deaths crossing U.S.-Mexico border 1998-2010 Root causes

34 Who profits? Private prison companies Defense contractors Lobby for more –For Arizona SB 1070 –Against CIR

35 Who suffers? 400,000+ deportations per year 46,000 parents with U.S. citizen children deported in first half of 2011 Over 5000 children currently in foster care

36 Questions/comments?

37 @mccwashington - @mccimmigration © 2013 Mennonite Central Committee

38 MCC US Immigration Work Education Advocacy Direct Services

39 ?

40 What’s next? Immigration Reform – August 2013? -Deferred Action (DACA) - DREAM -13 years – Obama’s Plan -AgJobs – High Tech Jobs -High-End jobs Resources -WO Immigration UpdateUpdate

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