DHS: Border Apprehensions in January Decrease 36% from Previous Month

The following is a February 2, 2016 press statement from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Homeland Security Jeh Johnson:

“In January 2016, overall apprehensions on our southwest border —an indicator of total attempts to cross the border illegally— declined 36 percent from the previous month, and were at the lowest levels since January 2015. Also, in January 2016, apprehensions of unaccompanied children declined by 54 percent compared to the month before, and apprehensions of those in families declined by 65 percent in the same period.

 

UACs

Family Members

All

July 2015

4,182

4,503

28,388

August 2015

4,638

5,159

30,239

September 2015

4,485

5,273

30,286

October 2015

4,944

6,026

32,727

November 2015

5,612

6,471

32,847

December 2015

6,786

8,974

37,017

January 2016

3,113

3,145

23,767

While the one-month decline in January is encouraging, this does not mean we can dial back our border security efforts. Recent enforcement actions, which focus on those apprehended at the border on or after January 1, 2014, will continue.

I have spoken or met with a number of members of Congress, advocates and attorneys concerned about the enforcement actions that took place on January 2-3. I have great respect for the views expressed and those who expressed them. But, as I have explained in these discussions, immigration enforcement policy must be two sides of a coin.

On the one hand, the new enforcement policy announced by the President and me on November 20, 2014 makes clear that our limited resources for immigration enforcement will not be dedicated to the removal of those who have committed no serious crimes, have been in this country for years, and have families here. Under our new policy, these people are not priorities for removal.

On the other hand, our new policy is focused on public safety and border security, as it should be. Those who commit serious crimes or who are apprehended at the border are priorities for removal. These have been our priorities consistently since we announced them on November 20, 2014, and they have not changed. Our borders are not open to illegal migration. If someone was apprehended at the border, has been ordered deported by an immigration court, has no pending appeal, and does not qualify for asylum or other relief from removal under our laws, he or she must be sent home. We must enforce the law in accordance with our enforcement priorities.

We also know that smugglers are taking advantage of parents and children, including the risk of physical harm and sexual exploitation. With the Department of Justice, we are doubling down on our efforts to prosecute smugglers.

I also reiterate that, when enforcing the immigration laws, our personnel will not, except in emergency circumstances, apprehend an individual at a place of worship, a school, a hospital or doctor’s office or other sensitive location.

Finally, we recognize that many who seek to flee Central America may be regarded as refugees. Secretary Kerry announced on January 13 that we are expanding our Refugee Admissions Program to help vulnerable men, women and children in Central America. The U.S. government is partnering with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and non-governmental organizations in the region to implement this as soon as possible. This approach builds on our recently established Central American Minors program, which is now providing an in-country refugee processing option for certain children with parents in the United States, as well as the existing asylum process.

Our policy is clear: we will continue to enforce the immigration laws and secure our borders consistent with our priorities and values. At the same time, we will offer vulnerable populations in Central America an alternative, safe and legal path to a better life.”

Federal Government Opens Citizenship Database to Florida Authorities, Making Immigrant Leaders Wary

The federal government has sent a letter to Florida governor Rick Scott allowing his state access to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) database listing the names of resident noncitizens in the United States.

The government acted after a district court judge ruled in Scott’s favor on the issue.  Scott wants to use the database in his push to eliminate voter fraud and ensure that only people who are legally allowed to vote in the U.S. do so.

Response from immigrant leaders in Florida and New York was mixed.

Maria Rodriguez, the Executive Director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, was skeptical of Scott’s push.  Her organization is involved with a lawsuit against the state government for “violations of the Voting Rights Act.”

She told Fi2W that only a minuscule amount of actual voter fraud cases have been recorded in Florida, while the registration gap among Latino voters numbers in the hundreds of thousands.

According to Politifact, only 49 cases of voter fraud have been identified by the Florida Department of State since 2007.  According to the Associated Press, 86 people have been removed from the voter rolls in Florida for lacking eligibility since April 11.

Meanwhile, according to an estimate by Latino Decisions, a polling service, over 600,000 Latinos in Florida are eligible to vote but unregistered.

According to Rodriguez, this is the true problem, and it is one that Scott’s administration is refusing to address.

“Why focus on the minutiae of the voter fraud, which happened accidentally and inadvertently, instead of really trying to encourage democracy?” she told Fi2W.

For Rodriguez, the answer is simple.

“This is the latest example of [Scott] trying to activate his nativist base,” she said.  ”It’s a complete diversion from the real issues around keeping our democracy vibrant, and supporting inclusion.”

In New York, Valeria Treves of New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE) saw the sharing of citizenship databases by different levels of government as potentially intimidating to newer Americans.  Many immigrants who are not citizens send their children to school, pay taxes, and inform the police of potential criminal activities, she said, and the feeling that their information is being monitored by many different government agencies is intimidating.

“I think it erodes the trust between immigrants and different parts of the government,” she told Fi2W.  ”If they see all this info sharing between local and federal agencies, it’s going to dissuade immigrants from engaging in the actions that we all engage in.”

Treves said that her experience working with immigrants showed her that the vast majority of immigrants who register to vote without being citizens do so without realizing it, and attempting to present it otherwise is dishonest.

“I really feel like the rhetoric of immigrants doing this for malicious intent is overly political,” she said.  ”It’s not accurate.”

Alan Kaplan, the Civic Engagement Director for the New York Immigration Coalition, supported Florida’s right to check its voter rolls, but echoed Rodriguez and Treves’ misgivings on voter fraud’s legitimacy as a political issue, and saw it more as a tactic to discourage voting among certain populations.

“I think any time you confuse voters, especially new voters, you could be causing them to not go out and vote, and I feel like that’s part of the stategy of going after the voter rolls,” he said.

Fi2W is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation and the Sirus Fund. Photo courtesy of flickr

Justin Mitchell was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska. He graduated from the University of Northern Colorado in 2002 with a degree in theater, and worked as an ESL teacher in the Czech Republic, Cambodia, and Korea. He is now a student at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism with a focus in international journalism. Follow him on Twitter @mittinjuschell.