Immigration Nation Brilliantly Captures the Brutal Logic Behind America’s Immigration Enforcement Regime

“Given just how secretive ICE is, Clusiau and Schwarz pulled off a small miracle by using their pre-existing relationship with an ICE spokesperson to embed themselves in the agency just when President Donald Trump assumed office. For the next three years, they followed ICE around the country, from New York to Texas to Arizona, watching agents conduct raids, debate enforcement tactics, and plot media strategy while blithely upending—and ending—lives.

The documentary, whose more incriminatory parts the Trump administration tried to suppress, opens with a pre-dawn ICE raid on undocumented immigrants in New York. The raid marks the first day of the weeklong Operation Keep Safe—whose actual purpose, contrary to its name, was to instill fear. One ICE agent gushes as he gets ready for action: “I love my job.” A Hispanic agent, on the first day of his job, is giddy: “It’s Christmas for us.” Another exults that the change of administration means “it’s a different world now” where the “floodgates have opened.”

But who exactly is getting sucked in? Not folks with serious criminal histories. ICE’s own records show that only 13 of the 225 people arrested during that operation had serious crimes on their record. The vast majority of those arrested either had committed minor misdemeanors, such as DUIs, or were that unfortunate breed called “collaterals.”

Collaterals are undocumented people who have committed only visa violations—akin to speeding in a rational world—but happened to be in the vicinity when ICE came looking for someone else. If any agent has qualms about going after them, those reservations dissolve as the pressure of filling arrest quotas kicks in. ICE agent Brian’s experience makes this abundantly clear. Just when he was expressing his distaste for the practice, he got a call from his supervisor, who tells him “I don’t care what you do” just “get me two” arrests.”

“what’s jaw-dropping is to watch ICE agents openly bend and break the rule of law in the name of…enforcing the rule of law.”

“By law, ICE agents can’t enter and arrest until they are asked in. So how did they obtain an invitation? By lying and identifying themselves as police. If someone protested on seeing who they really were, the reaction essentially was “Tricked ya!”. The agents then calmly go about the grim business of handcuffing dazed fathers (and sometimes moms) while ignoring the pleas of their shell-shocked spouses and wailing children.”

“ICE and its sister agencies terrorize immigrants not just through its enforcement squads and detention camps, but by weaponizing its bureaucracy.
In recent days, reports have surfaced that immigration authorities—in an administration allegedly dedicated to slashing red tape—have quietly adopted a no-blanks policy that rejects visa applications if any part of a form is left unfilled. If someone does not have a middle name and skips that line, their petition gets thrown out. Ditto if they leave out the apartment number because they live in a house. The strategy is to make the process so hard for people who are trying to do it by the book that they abandon their quest to live in the United States.”

“One of the most heart-wrenching stories in Immigration Nation shows how the immigration bureaucracy chews up and spits out Carlos Perez. As a police officer in El Salvador, he offered intel on Salvadoran gangs to the New York Police Department. When the gangs found out, he and his wife fled, at one point swimming across a river with their two toddlers strapped to their backs. The precise details are a bit fuzzy, but it seems Perez sought asylum and was released into the country with work authorization, which he dutifully renewed on a regular basis. But his lawyer forgot to file a formal petition—something that occasionally happens because these migrants are too poor to buy quality representation and don’t have the language skills to navigate the byzantine system themselves. Many years later, when ICE realized this, it took Perez into custody. And after some months, ignoring his pleas that he’ll be killed if he returns home, sends him packing back. The fact that he had risked his life to help American law enforcement counted for nothing against his trivial lapse in paperwork.
At one point, we see him calling his family from a detention camp prior to deportation. He poignantly gives his son, a teenager who has to prematurely step into his dad’s shoes, instructions on making car payments and other such business. The ICE supervisor, who had total discretion over Perez’s fate, admits that Perez was trying to play by the rules. But in the end, he says, he gets “an inherent kind of satisfaction—I won’t say ‘joy’—in removing people who don’t belong in the country regardless of public sentiment.”

After Perez’s deportation, his son drops out of school, cashes in his meager savings, and tries to support the family. “I’ve lost all faith in the U.S. government,” he mourns.”

“And then there is the 63-year-old Guatemalan woman—petite, frail, terrified, and the furthest thing from a threat to the United States—who fled her country with her 12-year-old granddaughter. According the grandmother, an MS-13 gang member took a fancy to the preteen and demanded that grandma let him marry her or he’d kill them both. The two traveled for 10 days by land to reach the U.S. border and immediately turned themselves in at a port of entry, exactly as legally required. The granddaughter was released from detention after two months to join her mom, who lives in the U.S. The grandmother, however, was held in detention for 17 months—illegally, her lawyer claims, since she met the test for being released into the country while her asylum petition was considered. But she was a pawn in the Trump administration’s deterrence game, so the rules didn’t matter.

Her petition was eventually rejected. Before her lawyer could file an emergency appeal—as is perfectly in keeping with the rules—she was deported in the dead of the night. She wasn’t even allowed a phone call to bid her granddaughter good-bye.”

“Story after story in Immigration Nation shows how the government systematically games and breaks the rules to keep immigrants out. Yet one ICE agent smugly tells unauthorized immigrants, as he leads them to the bridge back to Mexico, to “try to do it the right way” next time, because, the right way is “always the best way.” He seems oblivious to the fact that even before Trump arrived on the scene and gutted legal immigration, few options to come in the “right way” existed for low-skilled migrants: Every administration since President Lyndon Johnson has been slamming doors in their faces.”

DHS is holding migrant children in secret hotel locations and rapidly expelling them

“The Trump administration is holding unaccompanied migrant children in hotels before rapidly expelling them from the US under a new policy that allows officials to turn away anyone who poses a risk of spreading coronavirus — even if they show no symptoms and are seeking asylum.”

“It’s just the latest in a long line of Trump administration policies designed to gut the asylum system on the southern border. Before the pandemic, officials were turning away tens of thousands of migrants at the southern border through the “Remain in Mexico” program, under which asylum seekers were forced to wait in Mexico, often for months at a time, for their immigration court hearings in the US. The new expulsion policy has largely replaced that program as a mechanism for keeping migrants out.
According to court documents, the administration had expelled about 2,000 unaccompanied children under the policy as of June. Though the government has not released more recent data on unaccompanied children specifically, CBP reported expelling more than 105,000 migrants total under the policy by the end of July.

“They’re coming here because they have legitimate claims for humanitarian protection,” Steven Kang, an attorney for the ACLU, said Friday. “For this country turn them right around is not only wrong — it’s not what Congress wanted. This whole shadow deportation scheme bypasses and ignores all the important rights that Congress gave them.””

“Though overcrowding of such facilities was a concern at the outset of the pandemic, HHS shelters are now operating at 5-to-10-percent capacity — well below normal, Kang said. That suggests that there is plenty of room to safely enforce social distancing and quarantine anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 or develops symptoms.
The lawsuit also argues that children have the right to an attorney and a full immigration court hearing to determine whether they are entitled to protections that would allow them to stay in the US, which is required by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPRA).

The government has argued that it has the authority to reject any migrant who poses a risk of spreading communicable disease under Title 42, a federal public health provision. Mark Morgan, the acting CBP commissioner, said earlier this month that the policy helps mitigate the risk of spreading the virus to anyone the migrants might come into contact with while being processed and in HHS shelters.”

A federal judge blocked Trump’s rule creating a wealth test for immigrants

“The rule is only one of several policies the Trump administration has pursued to dramatically shift which immigrants are legally able to come to the United States. Under Trump, the legal immigration system increasingly rewards skills and wealth over family ties to the US, while shutting out a growing number of people from low-income backgrounds. (Though he has even imposed restrictions on skilled immigrants amid the pandemic.)

Heeding calls from 31 states to end refugee admissions from Syria, Trump has slashed the total number of refugees the US accepts annually to just 18,000 this year, the fewest in history and down from a cap of 110,000 just two years ago.

He’s placed restrictions on the citizens of many Muslim-majority and African countries. His travel ban prevents citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, and North Korea from obtaining any kind of visa allowing them to enter the US. He also added restrictions on immigrants from six additional countries: Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania.”

“With the public charge regulation, Trump is painting immigrants as abusing public benefits. But they are actually “less likely to consume welfare benefits and, when they do, they generally consume a lower dollar value of benefits than native-born Americans,” according to the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.
In 2016, the average per capita value of public benefits consumed by immigrants was $3,718, as compared to $6,081 among native-born Americans. Noncitizens were slightly more likely to get cash assistance, SNAP benefits, and Medicaid, but far less likely to use Medicare and Social Security.

“The rhetoric around the use of public benefits programs is largely smoke and mirrors,” Erin Quinn, a senior staff attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, told Vox. “It’s feeding a rhetoric that immigrants are draining our public services when in fact these immigrants don’t even have access to those services and also galvanizing fear in immigrant communities.””

They Came for the ‘Illegals’ First, Now They’re Going After Immigrants Who Played by the Rules

“Most immigration watchers thought President Trump’s new executive order extending his 60-day April immigration pause until the end of 2020 was meant to stop new immigrants from coming into the United States. As I pointed out, the order was halting new green cards for anyone other than the children and spouses of American citizens. It was also imposing a moratorium on new temporary work visas, including H-1Bs for foreign techies, H-2Bs for low-skilled non-agricultural work, J visas for summer jobs, and L visas for intra-company transfers. Bringing in more workers from the outside, the proclamation’s zero-sum logic declared, “present[s] a significant threat to the employment opportunities for Americans,” which the country can’t allegedly afford at a time of high pandemic-induced unemployment.

But now the National Foundation for American Policy’s Stuart Anderson has found that buried in the proclamation is a potential deportation plan for hundreds of thousands of high-skilled foreign workers who’ve been legally living inside America, in some cases for decades. They have high-paying jobs for skills that are in short supply in America, they pay far more taxes than they’ll ever consume in welfare, and they are generally upstanding folks.

Foreign techies have to go through an exceedingly arduous, expensive, and long process to obtain green cards. The wait time for green cards is running over seven decades for many of the 350,000 Indian professionals on H-1Bs—and their 357,000 dependents—in the country currently. That’s because Congress capped employment-based green cards at a meager 140,000 per year.* And then, just for good measure, it gave every country the same quota for green cards. This means that countries like India, China, and the Philippines, which send America many tech workers, doctors, nurses, and other high-skilled laborers, have access to the same number of green cards every year as, say, Kazakhstan, which barely sends any. The upshot is that a massive backlog has developed for the former countries. But of course, the Trump administration has shown zero interest in a simple fix like eliminating the per-country limit and rolling over the unused green cards from previous years.”

“Anderson maintains that Trump’s new proclamation includes ominous language that potentially opens the door to subjecting the I-140 holder to one or more additional labor certifications while they are waiting to be approved for their green cards. At the same time, the administration might make the labor certification process itself so onerous as to ensure that few could pass it.

Should the administration proceed with its scheme, hundreds of thousands of high-skilled professionals who’ve played by every rule and waited patiently for years for their green cards, raising families and building lives in America, could find themselves ejected from the country. “If a foreign government wanted to come up with a plan to harm America’s technological leadership in the world, this would be the plan,” Anderson says.”

“there are significant statutory hurdles that might prevent the administration from successfully requiring repeat certifications, says Anderson. However, simply attempting to do so will sow fear and panic among foreign professionals and prompt at least those who are in the relatively early stage of the process to self-deport rather than take any risks with their lives and careers.

Nor is this the first attack on foreign professionals by this administration. The denial of new H-1B petitions has increased considerably during Trump’s term and renewal of existing petitions has become much harder.”

“Undocumented immigrants were just the lowest hanging fruit. Over the years, restrictionists have found ways to smear every category of immigrants. Family-based immigration got pilloried as chain migration; refugees got branded as national security threats; Latin American asylum seekers got lambasted as “invaders.” And now foreign techies, a once-sacrosanct class of immigrants that even conservatives considered highly desirable, are being branded as economic threats.

They came for the illegals first—but of course they didn’t stop there.”

Trump’s New Immigration Pause Will Kill Prospects of a Quick Economic Recovery

“The temporary 60-day pause that President Donald Trump declared on legal immigration in mid-April after the coronavirus hit was not so temporary after all. Starting tomorrow, Trump will extend this pause until the end of 2020. But that’s not all. He is also expanding the scope of the ban to cover even more categories of immigrants.

Trump is justifying all this as an effort to save American workers from foreign competition. But if America’s past experience with restrictionist policies is any indication, the ban will backfire and end up hurting, not helping, American workers, its intended beneficiaries, while crimping America’s economic recovery.”

“There are already significant obstacles built into labor and immigration law that make it far more time consuming and costly for businesses to hire foreign workers. So businesses already automatically prioritize American workers over foreign workers. As Sen. Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.) tweeted after Trump’s announcement: “Work visas for temporary and seasonal jobs covering industries like hospitality, forestry, and many economic sectors can only be issued AFTER American workers have had a chance to fill the position.”

The fact of the matter is that American employers only hire immigrants to fill niches at the top and the bottom end of the labor spectrum where qualified Americans aren’t available or willing to take jobs. Restrictionists like White House aide Stephen Miller, the real architect of Trump’s immigration pause, claim that starving businesses of foreign workers will force them to invest in training domestic workers and/or paying them more, resulting in more jobs and higher wages for Americans.

But this is the flawed logic of central planning. It ignores the fact that there are limits to the price increases that a market can bear. Businesses will automate functions that can’t be performed abroad and will outsource other functions to keep a lid on the costs of a key input—all of which will hurt, not help, American workers.”

“Interestingly, Trump’s immigration ban does not extend to H-2A visas for farm workers. In fact, that’s the one category of visas that has expanded on his watch. Why? Because agriculture is the mainstay of many red state economies whose leaders have indicated that they would not take kindly to being cut off from a key source of labor. Trump has also carved a very narrow exemption for foreign workers “involved with the provision of medical care to individuals who have contracted COVID-19” and who are “currently hospitalized.”

But high-skilled foreign workers that blue states like California, Washington, and New York depend on are out of luck. What is likely to happen in these states? Will they rush to hire Americans with big bucks in hand? Not really.

For starters, there just aren’t enough high-skilled Americans sitting around to be hired. The unemployment rate last month—the peak of the pandemic—for computer jobs was 2.5 percent compared to the overall rate of 13.3 percent for all jobs, according to an analysis by the National Foundation for American Policy.

So as high-tech companies are choked off from hiring foreign workers, they’ll start outsourcing more operations abroad. This is what happened in 2004 when Congress slashed the H-1B cap from 195,000 to less than half”

ICE Agents Fight Sex Trafficking by Paying Potential Victims for Hand Jobs

“Agents with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Arizona have been “fighting” human trafficking by sending federal immigration agents to coerce suspected victims into paid sex acts. These acts were later used by authorities to justify arresting women who agreed to them, seizing their assets, and telling the press it was these women who were the real predators.”

“Absurd and horrifying? Obviously. But also a scenario that is far from an isolated incident.”

No, 1 in 3 Kids Coming Across the Southern Border Are Not Victims of Sex Trafficking

“In a recent short video for PragerU, Anna Paulina Luna, a Republican running for Congress in Florida, suggested that one third of the immigrant kids coming over our southern border are being sex trafficked.
She said it in a kind of garbled way—conflating the fact that some kids aren’t related to their smugglers, with the fact that “sex trafficking exists”—but her conclusion was clear: Separating kids from the adults bringing them over the border is for their own protection, because otherwise they are being sold into prostitution.

This notion is preposterous”

“in 2018, the government started doing DNA tests on a limited group of people crossing the border who had aroused particular suspicion. “It wasn’t a random sample of people coming over the border,” she says.

Indeed, many of them were not related to the people they said were their relatives. But that was only a small subset of migrants, and the results were neither surprising nor damning. Unrelated groups often cross the border together, because many times the biological parent is already in the U.S. They left their child behind to be raised by an aunt or grandma until the child was old enough to come over, or the parent was well-established enough to provide them a decent home. The parent then pays for the child’s passage north. Maybe the child is accompanied by an aunt, or even a neighbor who is also migrating. This person might lie about their relationship to the child, but that doesn’t mean their true purpose is sex trafficking.”

“In any case, the government has currently come up with a new excuse for separating children and sending them back across the border: COVID-19. The New York Times reported Wednesday that the feds are deporting hundreds of migrant kids and teens without any chance to plead their case. The government is citing a 1944 law that lists disease-prevention as a reason to bar foreigners from entering the country, but many of these kids were already here when the pandemic began.”

A US immigration agency could run out of money by the end of summer without a $1.2 billion bailout

“Immigration has come nearly to a standstill over the past two months. The Trump administration has shuttered USCIS offices, closed consulates abroad, shut down the borders with Canada and Mexico and imposed a 60-day ban on the issuance of new green cards. Asylum processing at the southern border has also practically stopped, as Trump administration officials implemented a program to rapidly return migrants to Mexico without so much as a health exam.
While brought on by the pandemic, this kind of decrease in legal immigration is what Trump has long sought. He has railed against what he calls “chain migration,” referring to US citizens or permanent residents who sponsor their immigrant family members for visas and green cards. And he has sought to keep poor immigrants out by proposing to reject those who don’t have health insurance or who might use public benefits in the future. (Courts have blocked the restrictions on immigrants without health insurance from going into effect for now, but the policy affecting immigrants who might go on public benefits went into effect in February.)”

“Unlike other federal agencies, USCIS receives almost no taxpayer dollars, and is dependent on fees associated with filing applications for green cards, visas, work permits, US citizenship, and humanitarian benefits such as asylum. The pandemic has already brought on a “dramatic decrease” in its revenue that is only likely to worsen as applications are estimated to drop by about 61 percent through September, an agency spokesperson said. President Donald Trump’s restrictions on immigration, other countries’ restrictions on travel and the fact that necessary government offices aren’t open to process applications have all contributed to this decline.

To mitigate the budget shortfall, USCIS is planning to implement an additional 10 percent surcharge on all applications and sought Congress’s help on Friday, Buzzfeed’s Hamed Aleaziz first reported. The agency has also already limited spending to salary and mission-critical activities, but “without congressional intervention, USCIS will have to take drastic actions to keep the agency afloat,” the spokesperson said.”