“The distinction between legal immigration and illegal immigration is often not clear-cut, though. Consider that only a minority of unauthorized immigrants, 38 percent, entered the country without proper documentation in 2016, according to research conducted by the Center for Migration Studies. Instead, the majority of unauthorized immigrants who entered the U.S. that year, 62 percent, overstayed their temporary visas, meaning they initially arrived in the U.S. legally but proceeded to remain illegally with expired paperwork. Moreover, the Pew Research Center looked at 2017 data from the Department of Homeland Security and found that almost 90 percent of those who overstayed their visas were from neither Mexico nor Central America.
Regardless, this doesn’t change the fact that a lot of media attention remains focused on illegal immigration, especially in the context of the southern border. Republicans are also still probably more concerned over illegal immigration than over legal immigration. When Gallup asked Americans in March how personally worried they were about illegal immigration, 68 percent of Republicans said “a great deal” — 27 percentage points higher than the overall share of Americans who said they were worried a great deal and 50 points higher than the share of Democrats who said the same.
And it’s this overwhelming concern around illegal immigration — regardless of its accuracy — that helps explain why Republican politicians still give the topic so much oxygen in their campaign materials. They know illegal immigration is a huge flash point for their voters — at the very least, this is something I’ve found in researching the platforms of various Republican primary candidates running for state and federal office. And yet, I’ve also found that when you look at the actual immigration policies Republican politicians have successfully enacted, efforts to curb legal immigration have been much more successful than policies meant to restrict illegal immigration.
Take former President Donald Trump. While illegal immigration was a central pillar of his campaign, especially in 2016, his administration proved much more adept at implementing policies that limited legal immigration than illegal immigration. A week after he took office, he notoriously signed an executive order that initially limited immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries. Moreover, throughout his four years in office, Trump also pursued a number of measures to uproot the process for asylum seekers, from banning certain situations in which people were eligible for asylum to introducing new protocols that made the asylum process longer. And later, the coronavirus pandemic unleashed a series of travel restrictions from the Trump administration in early 2020 that contributed to an 18 percent decrease in the average number of monthly green cards and a 28 percent decrease in non-immigrant visas compared with President Barack Obama’s second term. Meanwhile, Trump’s early campaign promises to collect and deport all undocumented immigrants never panned out, and his infamous wall — at least how he envisioned it — has yet to be built.
Trump’s policies may present obvious examples, but the former president is not the only one proposing policies that limit legal immigration. Republicans in Congress have also started to take up legislation that whittles down such pathways. For instance, when Republicans controlled the Senate in 2019, Sens. Tom Cotton and Josh Hawley and then-Sen. David Perdue reintroduced the RAISE Act, which proposed restricting family-based immigration policies in addition to instituting a host of other caps. (An earlier version, which specifically outlined halving the number of green cards issued annually, had previously failed to come to a vote in 2017, when Cotton and Perdue first proposed it.)
The bill also explicitly linked legal immigration to the economy with its focus on highly skilled immigrants, which it defined as immigrants who could help with “improving the fiscal health of the United States” without jeopardizing jobs that could otherwise be held by American citizens or as “protecting or increasing the wages of working Americans.””
“The 35-page complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Boston offers one of the most detailed accounts yet of how roughly 50 migrants found themselves on two planes that unexpectedly landed in Martha’s Vineyard last week, and trauma their new lawyers say they’ve suffered from their ordeal and from being thrust into the center of the national debate over immigration.
The plaintiffs include three Venezuelan migrants who boarded the planes to Martha’s Vineyard along with their family members as well as Alianza Americas, a Chicago-based advocacy group for Latino immigrant communities.
The complaint alleges that people working for DeSantis were “trolling streets outside of a migrant shelter in Texas and other similar locales, pretending to be good Samaritans offering humanitarian assistance,” including $10 McDonalds gift cards and free hotels while making “false promises and false representations” of employment, housing and educational opportunities awaiting the migrants in either Boston or Washington, D.C.
They were also allegedly told they would receive assistance with their immigration proceedings at their final destination and were “intentionally sequestered” before their departure from Texas “so they could not discuss the arrangement” and so that the migrants “would be less likely to leave or change their minds.”
Instead, the migrants were flown to Martha’s Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts, where “no one” on the island or “anywhere in Massachusetts” knew they were coming. They were given pamphlets “lifting language” from the state’s Refugee Resettlement Program — which the lawsuit argues none of the migrants are eligible for. And the people who recruited the migrants for the flights were “unreachable by phone” after they landed in Massachusetts.
“These immigrants, who are pursuing the proper channels for lawful immigration status in the United States, experienced cruelty akin to what they fled in their home country,” the plaintiffs argue. “Defendants manipulated them, stripped them of their dignity, deprived them of their liberty, bodily autonomy, due process, and equal protection under law, and impermissibly interfered with the federal government’s exclusive control over immigration in furtherance of an unlawful goal and a personal political agenda.””
“DeSantis has continued to defend his actions, claiming last week that the migrants voluntarily boarded the flights and weren’t coerced. He has argued that Florida’s Republican-led Legislature approved $12 million to transport migrants out of the state, though Democrats have claimed the flights are improper uses of the allocated funds.”
“Customs and Border Protection (CBP) invoked Title 42 in nearly 1.8 million migrant encounters between April 2020 and March 2022, amounting to 61 percent of total encounters. Title 42 allowed immediate expulsion and barred affected migrants from applying for asylum.
Although immigration opponents pointed to those numbers as proof of the policy’s necessity, the figures were inflated. Because Title 42 is a health measure, immigration officials could not impose reentry penalties on expelled migrants. With no disincentive for reentry, the share of encounters that involved repeat crossers jumped to 27 percent in 2021, nearly four times higher than in 2019.
Excluding repeat crossings, the number of border apprehensions resembled pre-pandemic levels. Border hard-liners ignored that point, pointing to headlines announcing record CBP apprehensions. Meanwhile, most would-be migrants were unable to request asylum at a port of entry, opting instead to congregate at the border. That was the natural result of shutting down more orderly immigration channels.”
” The Title 42 order has led to more frequent and less predictable migrant inflows. With proper planning, its phaseout could result in more efficient processing at the border. Restoring the asylum-seeking process, coupled with expanding opportunities for temporary work visas and economic migration, could help prevent both harm to migrants and chaotic scenes at the border.”
“In early April, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott unveiled a controversial plan to send buses full of undocumented immigrants to Washington, D.C. The policy, Abbott said, would “help local officials whose communities are being overwhelmed by hordes of illegal immigrants.”
But it turns out those communities might be stuck footing the hefty bill for Abbott’s busing scheme. According to state records obtained by Dallas–Fort Worth’s NBC 5, bussing costs came out to over $1.6 million in April and May. With 1,154 migrants transported during that period, the per-rider cost was roughly $1,400.
That’s far more expensive than a commercial bus or train ticket would’ve cost—a one-way journey from El Paso, Texas, to Washington, D.C., runs somewhere between $200 and $300 as of this article’s writing. It’s also more expensive than a first-class plane ticket from a border town to Washington, which NBC 5 reported ranged between $800 and $900. And it’s more than the public spends on average to transport a student to school for an entire school year.
NBC 5 notes that costs are so high in part because the state has hired security guards to staff each bus.”
“Costs are further inflated by the fact that buses drive back to Texas from Washington empty, having dropped off their passengers. Texas, however, gets billed for all total mileage.”
“Abbott’s busing plan is by no mean his only expensive anti-immigrant endeavor. He vowed last year to build a wall along his state’s border with Mexico, initially transferring $250 million in state revenues to the project as a “down payment.” A donation page for the wall has collected $55,322,273 as of May 27—unlikely to make a significant dent, given that a section of former President Donald Trump’s border wall in Texas came out to $27 million a mile. Abbott’s border-securing mission, Operation Lone Star, costs taxpayers over $2.5 million per week. That effort also left hundreds of migrants in pretrial detention for weeks or months over misdemeanor trespassing charges”
“The US’s latest investments aim to address economic hardship in the region in three ways: By bringing more workers into the formal economy, by setting higher wage and labor standards, and by using corporate influence to fight corruption.
That won’t happen overnight. But there is reason to hope that US companies could meaningfully improve living conditions over time and give people a reason to stay.”
“The region needs sustained investment before its residents will see any meaningful improvement in quality of life that might dissuade them from making the choice to migrate. In the past, US government aid has proved an unreliable source of that kind of investment. Former President Donald Trump decided to slash US aid to the region by a third, turning the clock back on the Obama administration’s efforts. Honduras saw homicides surge thereafter, and funding for social welfare programs ranging from job training for at-risk youths to grants for women entrepreneurs was cut.
The Biden administration hopes that because private companies are behind these latest investments, profit might motivate them to continue investing in the region, regardless of how US policy evolves, creating a more reliable stream of funding for Northern Triangle residents. The danger of this approach, of course, is that these companies could also suddenly pull their investments if they’re found to hurt the bottom line.”
“At the moment, governments in the region have so far been unable to provide a significant social safety net because they haven’t had the money to do so. In part, that’s because countries in the Northern Triangle have among the lowest effective tax rates in the world. Workers with informal jobs don’t typically pay taxes and local corporations often try to evade them.
Guatemala’s 2019 tax revenue, for instance, was just 13.1 percent of its GDP — the lowest among Latin America and Caribbean countries, which brought in nearly 23 percent of their GDP on average. For comparison, taxation brings in an average of about a third of GDP across high-income countries that are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
In Honduras, that has resulted in a sparse welfare system. There are no government-provided unemployment benefits. Though it has a social security program, only formal workers can pay into it and benefit from it. Public health care services are for the most part only available in large cities, leaving people in rural areas without access to physicians. That lack of support, coupled with pervasive violence and corruption, has left many migrants with no choice but to seek safety and opportunity elsewhere.”
“There was a time when Mexican vendors sold water jugs with a map glued to the side. The map displayed various mountain peaks, and migrants were directed to follow the promontories to highways where they would be picked up. Towers made that impossible. A 10-mile journey became a 20-mile march, and migrants increasingly relied on smugglers to guide them through arroyos, along mountainsides, weaving a path beyond sight of the towers. This is what Boyce and Chambers have termed CBP’s “corral apparatus,” an intentional strategy to funnel migrants into “a narrower corridor of movement” where they’re more likely to become isolated, confused, and where “physiological strain, suffering and mortality are likely to be greatest.” The very point of the surveillance tower placement, they contend, was to increase the difficulty of the journey.
“An initial strategy was to channel people into certain areas, to funnel them to a place where it’s easier to apprehend them,” James Lewis, who had advised on SBInet, told me. “That’s not good from a crosser perspective because they’re forced into more inhospitable areas, and the casualty rate goes up.”
This corralling has an official name, it’s called “prevention through deterrence.” The Clinton administration devised this strategy and CBP still practices it today — consciously or not. During the program’s first stages, in the mid-1990s, the U.S. raised walls near border cities with the intent to push migrants into the desert. Metrics like “a shift in flow” of migratory routes and “fee increase by smugglers” were signs of effectiveness. And deaths were an expected outcome. “Illegal entrants crossing through remote, uninhabited expanses of land and sea along the border,” the policy said, will “find themselves in mortal danger.” The government likely figured this would be an added deterrent, as stories of dead fathers and siblings filtered back through migrant networks. That is not what happened. Instead, as people left broken economies and rampant violence for the U.S., the death toll along the border soared and still the migrants came.”
“The memo argues that the policy, also known as “Remain in Mexico,” caused more harm than good, particularly in terms of its humanitarian impact.
“I recognize that MPP likely contributed to reduced migratory flows,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas wrote in the four-page memo announcing the policy shift. “But it did so by imposing substantial and unjustifiable human costs on the individuals who were exposed to harm while waiting in Mexico.”
That determination is in line with Biden’s campaign promises on immigration, which included reversing policies like Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy that resulted in family separations. It’s at odds, however, with the administration’s continuing reluctance to completely do away with other Trump-era legacies like Title 42, the immigration order that has allowed for the deportation of migrants as a public health measure during the pandemic.
And even though Biden began rolling back the MPP soon after taking office in January, his administration has had to prepare to re-implement the program in recent weeks in order to comply with a previous court order — even as it’s actively fighting to end the policy for good.”
“A 39-page justification published along with the memo outlines in further detail the conditions migrants faced in detention in Mexico, including the risk of sexual assault and kidnapping in the encampments where they stayed, as well as unsanitary and unstable housing conditions, limited access to health care and legal counsel, and insufficient food while they waited for the US to make a decision about their asylum hearings.
The right to seek asylum is protected under international law, and has been since the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948.”
“Ultimately, the Biden administration argues the policy has far too many issues for it to be salvaged: Not only does it require significant resources that could be directed elsewhere, according to the DHS memo, but MPP also failed to achieve reduction in crimes like human trafficking and drug smuggling, put people in serious danger, and doesn’t address the root causes that lead to people seeking asylum.
Additionally, the memo says, any program fixes would require the cooperation of Mexico and further diplomatic negotiations — time and energy that could be better spent on other issues. And other strict immigration policies were enacted at the same time as MPP, making it difficult to assess any deterrent effect the policy may have achieved.”
“During his early days in office, Biden seemed on track to dismantle the Trump administration’s most restrictive immigration policies. He ended the travel ban on people from mostly Muslim-majority countries, halted most new border wall construction, and reversed the “zero-tolerance policy” that enabled family separations and the “Remain in Mexico” program that kept asylum seekers waiting in Mexico for court hearings in the US. He also released an expansive reform proposal with a path to citizenship for the more than 10 million undocumented immigrants living in the US as its centerpiece.
Then, within weeks of his inauguration, record numbers of unaccompanied migrant children began arriving from Central America, and Biden’s border policies came under scrutiny from both the left and the right.
Suddenly on the defensive, the administration’s posture shifted. It reopened temporary, jail-like facilities — the same “cages” that drew condemnation in 2019 under Trump — to house migrant children. On a June trip to Guatemala, in what would become a common refrain for US officials, Vice President Kamala Harris told migrants, “Don’t come.””
“Biden’s primary tool to manage the border has been a controversial policy that one ex-Trump official, referring to the architect of the former president’s restrictive immigration policy, called a “Stephen Miller special.”
In March 2020, at the outset of the pandemic, Trump used a special legal authority called Title 42, a section of the Public Health Service Act that allows the US government to temporarily block noncitizens from entering the US in the interest of public health. Though Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) scientists initially opposed the policy, arguing that there was no legitimate public health rationale behind it, then-Vice President Mike Pence ordered them to implement it anyway.
Under both Trump and Biden, the policy has allowed US immigration officials at the southern border to rapidly expel migrants more than 1.1 million times, without a hearing before an immigration judge. (The exact number of people expelled is unknown because many have been caught trying to cross the border multiple times.)
Even when a federal judge recently blocked the policy from being used to expel families, the Biden administration chose to appeal the ruling, and has continued (with court permission) to enforce the policy while litigation continues.
Biden has carved out some exemptions. Unaccompanied children and people subject to the “Remain in Mexico” policy under Trump are allowed to enter the US while their cases are adjudicated. The Mexican government has also refused to take back some Haitian and Central American families, who have been allowed to enter. But everyone else, including people facing real persecution and danger in their home countries or in Mexico, can be expelled.”
“Haiti has been in a state of upheaval since at least July, when Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated and, amid the power vacuum, gang violence sharply escalated. When a magnitude 7.2 earthquake and tropical depression devastated Haiti in August, the country’s political crisis was compounded by a humanitarian one.
About 30,000 Haitian migrants arrived in Del Rio, Texas, last month, setting up a temporary encampment under the international bridge that connects the US and Mexico. There has also been a dramatic increase in Haitians attempting to cross the Caribbean by boat to reach the US. More than 1,500 such migrants were intercepted by the US Coast Guard over the last year, up from about 400 in the previous year.
Many of the Haitians seeking refuge in the US lived in Latin America for years after fleeing earlier crises in Haiti, including an even bigger 2010 earthquake. But the Covid-19 recession, racial discrimination in Latin America, the realization that going home was no longer an option, and the perception that the US would offer them humanitarian protection all played a role in their decision to move north.
At first, the Biden administration did offer protection. Mayorkas decided to extend Temporary Protected Status — typically used to enable citizens of countries that have experienced violent conflict or natural disasters to live and work in the US — for Haitians who arrived in the US prior to July 29. This offer was designed to cover those who fled the country in the aftermath of the political crisis stemming from Moïse’s killing.
At the time, Mayorkas said “serious security concerns, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty, and lack of basic resources, which are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic” had made it dangerous for Haitians to return home.
But the administration maintained a strict stance toward those arriving by boat. Mayorkas said in July that any migrants intercepted off US shores will be turned back or, if they express fear of returning home, repatriated to a third country.”
“Most of the Haitians who were staying in the camp have since been expelled. The US has sent 7,000 back to Haiti since September 19 through the Title 42 policy, despite continued turmoil on the ground. Others voluntarily returned to Mexico to avoid being sent back to Haiti or were allowed to enter the US, at least temporarily.
It’s not clear how US authorities determined which Haitians were to be expelled and which permitted to stay. Some 12,000 Haitians are currently facing deportation proceedings in which they will be able to make their case before an immigration judge for why they should be allowed to remain in the US, via asylum or other humanitarian avenues.”
“Biden has sought to provide legal status to at least some portion of America’s more than 10 million undocumented immigrants.
He backed Democrats’ latest but so far unsuccessful attempt to include a pathway to citizenship for certain categories of immigrants — including DREAMers who came to the US as children, TPS recipients, farmworkers, and essential workers — in a budget reconciliation bill. His administration also recently published a proposed regulation seeking to codify protections for DREAMers who have been allowed to live and work in the US under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which is meant to guard against ongoing legal challenges.
Biden has also attempted to expand legal aid resources for immigrants and limit the reach of immigration enforcement inside the US. The administration recently launched an initiative to provide unaccompanied children facing deportation with a government-funded lawyer in eight cities across the US, and has sought to narrow the categories of undocumented immigrants who should be prioritized for arrest, issuing new US ICE guidance meant to focus resources on those who pose public safety threats. And on Tuesday, the administration ended mass worksite raids, which the Trump administration used to arrest hundreds of undocumented immigrants at once.
Such policies, Psaki said during a September 20 briefing, show that Biden remains “absolutely committed” to “putting in place long-overdue measures to fix our immigration system — to make it more moral, humane, and workable.”
But his actions on the border have told a different story: a push to improve the lives of only certain immigrants who are already integrated into American society, while keeping others out of sight and out of mind — even if that means embracing policies designed by the Trump administration.”
“Using the word invasion as a substitute for illegal migration is both offensive to anyone who’s lived through a real one and insulting to the intelligence of everyone else. If you can’t tell the difference between 100,000 Germans arriving in Paris at the head of an army in 1940, and 100,000 Germans arriving in Paris today as tourists, it’s time to crack open a history book, not opine on immigration policy.”
“Migration across the border may involve violations of U.S. laws, but the comparison to an invasion ends there. Border crossers aren’t coming to overthrow the government or take over the Capitol (unlike a few nativists this year). Indeed, it’s the U.S. government that is attempting to assail the migrants, not the other way around. People crossing the border actively try to avoid conflict with U.S. authorities either by 1) evading detection and peacefully moving to their destinations, or 2) intentionally seeking out U.S. agents to submit to the government’s legal procedures. Reporting from the frontlines of this supposed conquest, The Wall Street Journal described how some invaders were inquiring for directions to the closest “immigration office.”
An “invasion” isn’t just an overstatement. It’s a completely unserious attempt to demand extraordinary, military-style measures to stop completely mundane actions like walking around a closed port of entry to file asylum paperwork or violating international labor market regulations in order to fill one of the 10 million job openings in this country. But the goal of this nativist language warfare is nothing less than the removal of immigrant rights. “We cannot allow all of these people to invade our country,” Trump tweeted in 2018. “When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came.””
“Migration is the exact opposite of an invasion. Nearly all these so-called invaders are coming to serve Americans. This supposed invasion will contribute to the strength and prosperity of the United States, not undermine it. This isn’t Santa Anna’s soldiers crossing the Rio Grande. It’s four kids with their mom reuniting with their dad at a farm outside of Atlanta. They’re not coming to blow us up or take our stuff—they’re coming to work with us, work for us, and buy our products. They want to be us, not conquer us. And that’s the most important point: A crackdown on migration does not vindicate the rights of Americans to be free from foreign attackers. Rather, it is a violation of our rights to associate, contract, and trade with peaceful people born in other countries.”
“There is no invasion. It’s just an overheated political analogy in pursuit of a policy outcome—if only the wielders of the word would admit that. If nativists have a good argument to make against liberalized immigration, let them make that argument instead of mangling the English language.”
“In late August, Nephtalie and her husband, still waiting in Chiapas, began to hear a rumor spreading around the Haitian migrant population living across Mexico. From interviews this week with other migrants in Del Rio, and conversations with attorneys who have met with dozens more, it seems that many people had the same experience. The rumor went like this: First, information went around that, while most of the border was closed, U.S. immigration authorities were allowing people to cross and ask for asylum in Mexicali — on the border with Calexico, California — and in Acuña, the Mexican city across from Del Rio. (This was not true, but it spread like wildfire among people yearning for a glimmer of hope.) Second, the rumor said that Sept. 16 would be the best day to travel. That would be Mexico’s Independence Day, and migrants figured that the Mexican authorities, who have bowed to U.S. pressure to more stringently police immigrants in Mexico, would be preoccupied, allowing them to travel within the country unimpeded northward. Finally, the bus routes to Acuña were cheaper than to other spots along the border, like Mexicali. So, as el Día de la Independencia de México arrived, thousands of people who had heard the rumors — by word of mouth or on WhatsApp or on Haitian social media — began traveling to Acuña to cross into Del Rio.
When I asked one Haitian man at a gas station in Del Rio, “Why did you choose to cross from Acunã to Del Rio?” he replied: “Where is that?” Like many, he had probably simply followed others along what sounded like an opportunity to finally be accepted in the United States.
But the stakes of following such a rumor only to be faced with the reality of a closed border are tragic: Most of the Haitians in Del Rio today left Haiti years ago. Now, after traveling thousands of miles with the hope that they could eventually gain asylum in the U.S., many are instead being returned to the very island they fled.”