The Immigration 101 series tracks my course at Hofstra Law School.
The United States has, over the last twenty-two years taken two basic approaches to reducing the number of undocumented immigrants. First is deportations. Second is employer sanctions. Enforcement of sanctions against employers has declined over the years, while deportations have steadily risen.
It is a commonplace to hear that the U.S. has stopped deporting undocumented immigrants and that we need to go back to some magical time, usually people cite the Reagan administration on this one, when “we enforced the law”.
Actually, deportations were much rarer during the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administration. Even during the early years of the Clinton presidency, only 51,000 people were deported in an average year. That had changed dramatically by Clinton’s second term. Annual deportations (now called “removals”) had quadrupled. In fact, deportations set a record in Clinton’s last year in office, reaching 272,000 formal and expedited removals. Deportations declined at first during George W. Bush’s presidency, but by 2005 they had set a new record of 281,000. Since then, the numbers have only grown.
Most deportees fit into one of three groups: 1. Persons caught near the border; 2. Persons arrested for crimes by state and local police who are then turned over to Homeland Security; and 3. Persons who were previously ordered to leave the U.S., but who failed to do so. There is now a fourth and growing group, immigrants who are caught up in raids directed against individuals in the third group.
In our next installment, we’ll look at how the raids work, and how they have changed in ways that are terrifying to the Latino community.