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After I posted my last blog on immigration, a friend of mine, who happens to also be an immigration attorney, contacted me. He offered to send me some facts on immigration. I am so thankful to him for this information as it really clarified the situation for me. I feel that it is very important to do research and share actual facts instead of relying on unknown sources and opinions of others which may not be based in fact.
The truth is that most immigrants are not criminals. This is a fact based on many studies. Trump wants the citizens of the U.S. to believe that crime is “pouring into the country”, but the facts are that this simply isn’t true. In fact, experts say that today’s immigration policy is mostly based on fear rather than facts.
According to the article “The Criminalization of Immigration in the United States”, written by Walter Ewing, PhD, Daniel Martinez, PhD and Ruben Rumbaut, PhD:
“Innumerable studies have confirmed two simple yet powerful truths about the relationship between immigration and crime: Immigrants are less likely to commit serious crimes or be behind bars than the native-born, and high rates of immigration are associated with lower rates of violent crime and property crime.”
How can we be sure about this? Well, here are some important statistics:
Between 1990 and 2013, the number of unauthorized immigrants grew from 3.5 million to 11.5 million. During that same period of time, violent crime in the U.S. declined by 48 percent, and property crime declined by 41 percent.
A study showed that in 2010, 1.6 percent of immigrant males aged 18-39 were incarcerated as compared to 3.3 percent of those who are native-born. In addition, the 1980, 1990 and 2000 censuses showed that the incarceration rate of native-born persons were 2-5 times higher than for immigrants. Among the less-educated, the incarceration rate for native-born citizens was 10.7 percent while the Mexican rate was 2.8 percent and the Salvadoran/Guatemalan rate was 1.7 percent.
These stats clearly show that overall, immigrants are not the dangerous criminals that Trump likes to push people to believe. Yes, there are always going to be some dangerous people who try to cross the border, but these people are clearly in a minority, and it is imperative to understand this fact instead of viewing all immigrants as criminals.
I will get into much more detail in future blogs about how immigrants are being criminalized, but for now, I will give you a general idea of what is happening in the system.
Since about 1996, immigration laws have become increasingly stringent. From the years 2000 to 2010, there was a significant increase in the incarceration rate of immigrants due to these stricter laws. New classes of felonies were developed which only applied to immigrants. More minor offenses such as illegal entry or traffic offenses are now considered “criminal”. Essentially, the government is not applying the same rules to immigrants as to those who are native-born. For immigrants, a minor offense can get them detained and deported whereas the same offense committed by someone who is a native of the U.S. would get a suspended sentence or a fine.
In 2014, Obama recognized the problem with the immigration policies. So many immigrants were being detained and deported because of the stricter laws that he recognized that the U.S. government did not have all the resources they needed to process all of them. It also became apparent that by using so many resources to deport immigrants who pose no threat, they were using less of their resources on keeping the drug cartels and human traffickers out of the U.S. Through executive action, Obama provided a temporary reprieve from deportation along with work authorizations to 5.3 million immigrants. This eased the strain on resources and allow immigration enforcement officials to put more time and effort toward keeping actual criminals such as drug cartels out of the country.
Enter Trump and his administration. In March, 2017, John Kelly told CNN in an interview that he was considering separating children from their families at the border if they enter the country illegally. So the administration had been considering this since early in Trump’s presidency. Then, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the implementation of the zero-tolerance policy in April, 2018. This policy criminalizes everyone who crosses the border illegally, and as a result, all children would be separated from their families. The children would automatically go to the U.S. Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement while their parent/parents are criminally prosecuted. As a result, over 2,000 children were separated from their families in a period of a couple of months.
So what exactly happened here? Well, in previous administrations, families generally were allowed to stay together. They were usually released together to await their case in court. Under Trump’s zero tolerance policy, all families who crossed illegally are separated and the adults are criminally prosecuted. However, remember how, since about 1996, the immigration rules had progressively become stricter? Even under Bush, Clinton and Obama, immigrants were treated more harshly than native-born Americans. So the implementation of Trump’s zero-tolerance policy was particularly harsh.
During the time that children were separated, Trump and others in his administration insisted on many occasions that the law forced them to separate children from their parents. This is false. There is no law that says that children must be separated from their families at the border. However, there are restrictions on how long a minor can be held in custody. The 1997 Flores settlement says that a minor cannot be held in custody for more than 20 days. This complicates the matter at the border, but let’s be very clear – there is no law that says that children must be separated from their families.
Now, let’s think about this zero tolerance policy for a minute. We have already seen in the past that the immigration system is strained because we are criminalizing immigrants who pose no threat to the U.S. (asylum seekers). By putting the zero tolerance policy into place, the system is strained past its limits. We saw this with the “tent city” that was being erected to house separated children. If Trump and his administration had done any research at all, they would have known that this policy was doomed to failure. The U.S. government does not have the resources to criminalize every single immigrant that crosses the border, and it’s ridiculous to do so since the majority of them are asylum seekers that pose no threat to the U.S. In addition, there are little to no resources left to aggressively pursue the detention and deportation of known drug cartel members and human traffickers. I hope you see how ridiculous and unprepared this administration is when it comes to immigration enforcement.
This Trump disaster didn’t last long. The uproar over the separations pushed Trump into signing an executive order to stop the separations. Still, Trump constantly says that crime is “pouring into our country” with the influx of these immigrants. He makes it sound like all immigrants are criminals. I see pro-Trumpers say on social media that all immigrants need to be stopped from coming into the U.S. because they are all criminals. They also insist that “most” immigrants are violent drug cartel members and/or human traffickers. These false views are fueled by Trump’s false statements, and this needs to stop.
Part II to come soon…