Illegal Immigration In America Has Continued To Decline

Useful context:

In a report that could provide context to most immigration news stories, new research reveals that the number of unauthorized immigrants has continued to decline in the United States. The unauthorized immigrant population fell to 10,350,000 in 2019, a decline of 12% since 2010. The approximately 10.4 million unauthorized immigrants represent about 3% of the total U.S. population. A majority have lived in the U.S. for more than a decade.

While Donald Trump railed against illegal immigration from Mexico, it turns out demographics and economic conditions in Mexico had already addressed the issue. “The undocumented population from Mexico declined so much in the past decade that its share dropped to less than half of the total population,” according to new research from Robert Warren, a demographer and senior visiting fellow at the Center for Migration Studies. “From 2010 to 2019, the undocumented population from Mexico declined by about 1.9 million, and the undocumented population from the rest of the world increased by about 500,000.”

Among the key findings in Warren’s report:

–        “The undocumented population continued to decline in 2019, falling by 215,000 compared to 2018; this population has declined by 1.4 million, or 12%, since 2010.”

–        “Return migration of undocumented residents to Mexico was principally responsible for the decline of almost 1.9 million in the total undocumented population from 2010 to 2019.”

–        “The undocumented populations from Central America and Asia increased at the same rate from 2010 to 2016. After 2016, the population from Asia stopped growing, and the population from Central America increased by about 200,000.”

–        “Since 2010, the undocumented population from Mexico has fallen from 6.6 million to 4.8 million, or by 28%.”

–        “In 2019, 42 states and Washington, DC, had fewer undocumented residents from Mexico than they had in 2010. The states with increases in undocumented persons from Mexico had small undocumented populations.” Between 2010 and 2019, the number of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico declined by 35% in California, 13% in Texas, 23% in Arizona, 41% in Illinois, 37% in Georgia and 27% in Florida.

However, news and politics are often dominated by the short-term, including what is happening at any moment on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Ali Noorani, president and CEO of the National Immigration Forum, believes a combination of people today are crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. “My sense is that we are talking about unaccompanied minors (UACs) presenting themselves for protection, families who were in Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) in Mexico and are re-entering through the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) process, families with young children who Mexico will not take back (in particular those in south Texas) and the population of single adults by and large from Mexico who are entering, apprehended, expelled and who then try to enter again,” he said in an interview.

“Nothing at the border right now is a surprise,” said Noorani on Twitter. “Therefore, it should not escalate to a crisis. The Biden administration needs to put in place the infrastructure, logistics and processes to manage the border. A crisis is when Trump expelled thousands of migrant children back to Mexico, strong-armed/bribed unsafe countries to pretend to be safe countries, and forced thousands of families to wait in Mexico while eviscerating the immigration system.”

The current situation at the border could affect bills to legalize Dreamers and others in the United States, although Robert Warren found no evidence that Congress considering legalization affects migrant decisions to come to America.

“An important finding is that the comprehensive immigration reform bill, S. 744, passed by the U.S. Senate in June 2013, did not cause an increase in undocumented immigration from Mexico,” writes Warren. “Instead, return migration fell by about half during the period that the bill was under active consideration. The finding that proposed legalization programs do not increase undocumented migration provides support for legalization proposals forthcoming from the Biden administration.”

A letter (February 2, 2021) from legal, religious and humanitarian organizations urged President Biden to stop using the authority invoked by the Trump administration to expel people at the border without due process. “We write to urge your administration to immediately end the misuse of Title 42 public health authority to illegally and inhumanely expel asylum seekers and migrants at the border,” according to the letter from Human Rights First, America’s Voice, American Immigration Lawyers Association, Anti-Defamation League, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) and other groups.

“Since March 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has blocked and turned away people at the southern border, including asylum seekers and children, without access to the U.S. asylum system or preliminary protection screenings, sending them to persecution, torture and other serious danger in violation of U.S. refugee and anti-trafficking laws and treaty obligations. The Trump administration, for instance, expelled prominent Nicaraguan dissidents who had attempted to seek asylum in the United States, returning them to Nicaragua where authorities had detained and beaten them for their political activism. Your administration continues to block and expel people, including families with children, under the same policy.

“These expulsions are being carried out under orders that Trump Administration officials pressured the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue despite objections by senior CDCmedical experts. . . . During the presidential campaign, you committed to end inhumane Trump administration border policies, uphold U.S. laws and treaty obligations to protect refugees and immigrant children, and adopt COVID-19 measures based in science. For your actions to reflect those promises, your administration must end the misuse of Title 42 public health authority at the border, stop blocking and expelling people seeking U.S. humanitarian protections, ensure appropriate infrastructure and support for shelters and other border groups to assist asylum seekers, and allow these families, children and adults to pursue their requests while in safety, inside the United States.”

In addition to addressing humanitarian concerns, the solution to preventing most future illegal entry is to make it possible for individuals to apply to work legally in the United States at the types of jobs many would otherwise fill as unauthorized immigrants.

Fernando Castillo picks “oranges and other crops for Elkhorn Packing, a company that provides labor through H-2A visas . . . He heard about the program through his job back in Tamaulipas, Mexico. It’s a good way to make more money, he says.”

“‘Because here the salary is a bit more than over there, and to help the bosses,’ he says,” according to National Public Radio. “The bosses he’s referring to are his parents. The 29-year-old sends money to them and his siblings. ‘To buy food to buy whatever they need in Mexico. Because in that country the salary is not enough to do certain stuff,’ he says. ‘And the American money over there gives people better benefits.’”

Contrast Fernando Castillo, who had a legal work visa and happily sends money to his family, with the fate of Yesenia Magali Melendrez from Guatemala.

“Yesenia Magali Melendrez Cardona told her father she wanted to follow in his footsteps,” reported the Los Angeles Times. “He had made the trek from Guatemala to the U.S. 15 years earlier in search of a new life. In February, she left a job and her studies behind and headed north. Chiquimulilla, the town where she had spent her 23 years, had been ravaged by the pandemic. Unemployment was rising. The population was desperate. The streets were too dangerous to walk at night.

“On Tuesday, Yesenia found herself in a situation just as perilous as the one she had fled. A maroon Ford Expedition bore a suspected smuggler and 24 people racing toward what they hoped would be safety. Yesenia and her mother, Verlyn Cardona, were wedged in the back when it drove through a breach in the fence separating Mexico from California.

“It was broadsided in the Imperial County town of Holtville by a semi hauling two empty trailers. It came to a stop, windshield shattered, at the intersection of Highway 115 and Norrish Road.

“Seventeen passengers were ejected from the SUV. When Verlyn regained consciousness in the back of the crumpled vehicle, her daughter was sprawled across her legs. Dead.”

Many potential asylum seekers from Central America would welcome the security of a work visa.

“The best solution, as ever, is to reduce the incentive for people to come illegally by creating more ways to work legally in America,” wrote the Wall Street Journal in a December 2018 editorial. “Most migrants come to work, and at the current moment there are plenty of unfilled jobs for them. A guest-worker program would let migrants move back and forth legally, ebbing and flowing based on employer needs, while reducing the ability of gangs and smuggler ‘coyotes’ to exploit vulnerable migrants.”

Research from the National Foundation for American Policy found increasing the legal admission of farmworkers during the 1950s under the Bracero Program significantly reduced unlawful entry to America. Based on apprehensions at the border, illegal entry to the United States fell by 95% between 1953 and 1959, as farmworkers entered legally in larger numbers. Today, a greater ability to work in jobs in other sectors, particularly year-round, would be welcomed by migrants and employers.

Making it easier to work and apply for protection lawfully will save lives and address illegal immigration. The unauthorized immigrant population in the United States has declined by 12% since 2010. It’s a statistic that should crawl across the screen whenever immigration is discussed on TV—or in Congress.

Source: Illegal Immigration In America Has Continued To Decline

President Trump Reduced Legal Immigration. He Did Not Reduce Illegal Immigration

Usual solid analysis by Cato Institute:

President Trump entered the White House with the goal of reducing legal immigration by 63 percent. Trump was wildly successful in reducing legal immigration. By November 2020, the Trump administration reduced the number of green cards issued to people abroad by at least 418,453 and the number of non‐​immigrant visas by at least 11,178,668 during his first term through November 2020. President Trump also entered the White House with the goal of eliminating illegal immigration but Trump oversaw a virtual collapse in interior immigration enforcement and the stabilization of the illegal immigrant population. Thus, Trump succeeded in reduce legal immigration and failed to eliminate illegal immigration.

Figure 1 shows the monthly number of green cards issued to immigrants outside of the United States. In most years, about half of all green cards are issued to immigrants who already reside in the United States on another visa. Thus, the number of green cards issued to immigrants abroad is a better metric of the annual inflow of lawful permanent residents than the total number issued. Trump cut the average number of monthly green cards issued by 18.2 percent relative to Obama’s second term, but that average monthly decline hides the virtual end of legal immigration from April 2020 onward.

In response to the recession and the COVID-19 outbreak, President Trump virtually ended the issuance of green cards to people abroad. In the last 6 months of the 2020 fiscal year (April‐​September 2020) the U.S. government only issued about 29,000 green cards. In the same period in 2016, the U.S. government issued approximately 309,000 green cards. Compared to the last half of FY2016, the number of green cards issued in the last half of FY2020 fell by 90.5 percent (please see note at the end of this blog post for how I estimated these figures).

Before the COVID-19 pandemic during the period from January 2017‐​February 2020, the average number of green cards issued per month was only down about 0.5 percent under Trump compared to from January 2013‐​February 2016 under the Obama administration with cumulative numbers down just over 3.2 percent. Beginning in mid‐​to‐​late March, the Trump administration virtually halted the issuance of green cards to people abroad. Without the COVID-19 immigration restrictions unilaterally imposed by the President, the issuance of green cards to foreigners abroad would have barely declined relative to the second term of the Obama administration.

Figure 2 shows the monthly number of non‐​immigrant visas (NIVs) issued abroad. NIVs include tourist visas, work visas, student visas, and others that do not allow the migrant to naturalize. Trump cut the monthly average number of NIVs by about 27 percent relative to Obama’s second term, but that decline obscures the virtual end of NIVs from April 2020 onward.

As with immigrant visas, President Trump virtually ended NIV issuance in response to the recession and the COVID-19 outbreak. In the last 6 months of the 2020 fiscal year (April‐​September 2020) the U.S. government only issued 397,596 NIVs. In the same period in 2016, the U.S. government issued more than 5.6 million NIVs. Compared to the last half of FY2016, the number NIVs issued in the last half of FY2020 fell by almost 93 percent (please see note at the end of this blog post for how I estimated these figures).

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, during the period from January 2017‐​February 2020, the average number of monthly NIVs issued was down about 12 percent under Trump compared to the January 2013‐​February 2016 period under the Obama administration and the cumulative numbers were down by just over 14 percent. Beginning in mid‐​to‐​late March, the Trump administration virtually halted the issuance of NIVs to people abroad. The COVID‐​19‐​related restrictions were the most severe and impactful part of Trump’s immigration policy.

Looking at the decline in the number of visas issued abroad under Trump through November 2020 compared to the second term of the Obama administration, Trump reduced the number of green cards issued by approximately 418,453 green cards and the number of NIVs issued by about 11,178,668. That’s a roughly 18 percent decline in the number of green cards issued abroad and approximately a 28 percent decline in the number of NIVs issued during Trump’s only term relative to Obama’s second term.

Although Trump succeeded in cutting legal immigration more than he initially planned, he oversaw the collapse of interior immigration enforcement. In 2020, the removal of illegal immigrants from the interior of the United States was the lowest as an absolute number and as a share of the illegal immigration population since ICE was created in 2003 (Figure 3). Trump failed to increase removals because local jurisdictions refused to cooperate with his administration, continuing a trend begun during the Obama administration in response to their deportation efforts. As a result, the population of illegal immigrants remained about the same as when he took office (Figure 4).

People Leave Footprints: Millions More Unauthorized Immigrants Cannot Be ‘Hidden’ in Data Estimates

For data and methodology geeks, this analysis of different estimates of the number of illegal immigrants of the US is worth reading. But whether the more sound approach will be listened to in the current political climate is uncertain at best:

Amid the current roiling political debate in the United States around immigration, and particularly illegal immigration, there is little doubt that an academic article out today in PLOS Onecontending the unauthorized immigrant population is millions larger than has long been estimated will attract widespread attention.

It is deeply unfortunate, therefore, that this thought experiment from a team of academics who specialize in management studies is based on seriously flawed assumptions leading them to the conclusion that there were at least 16.2 million, and as many as 29.5 million, unauthorized immigrants in the United States in 2016.

This accounting exercise departs dramatically from the estimates generated independently by several organizations in and out of government, using variations of a method whose accuracy has been proven successful in a real-world setting. These estimates, tested against other datasets to ensure their accuracy, range from a low of about 10.8 million to a high of 12.1 million, the latter the most recent estimate from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Even researchers in immigration restrictionist groups have concurred there cannot be millions upon millions of extra unauthorized immigrants hidden in the United States, because, in short, people leave footprints that are seen in statistical records—namely in birth, death, school enrollment, housing, and other records.

We believe these new numbers represent at most an interesting academic exercise, but are ultimately greatly off-base and thus counterproductive to the public’s very real need to understand the true scope of illegal immigration and how best to address it.

Where This Thought Experiment Goes Wrong

While we welcome fresh thinking and creative new methods to estimate a population that is by definition difficult to count, the theory articulated in the article has serious flaws, as we explain here and in greater detail in a formal response, also published today in PLOS One. The journal’s editors invited us to write this response, after we served as peer reviewers for the article.

In brief, we believe that the method:

Fails to sufficiently account for circular migration patterns prevalent in the 1990s. Because the government did not estimate the rate of successful illegal border crossings in the 1990s, the authors apply 2005-10 DHS estimates of detection rates to the 1990s. These rates estimate how many people successfully snuck across the border for each person apprehended.

However, crossing patterns were very different in the 1990s than in the mid- to late 2000s. In the 1990s, many migrants crossed multiple times in the same year, or they came for just a year or two before permanently leaving. Back then, illegal crossers faced few consequences, so little deterred them from coming, leaving, and returning again. As border enforcement increased strongly over the 2000s, resulting in higher smuggling costs and growing consequences for illegal entry (and in particular illegal re-entry), people who crossed illegally tended to remain in the United States. Therefore, in the 1990s, far more individuals were apprehended repeatedly than was the case in the 2000s. Applying 2005-10 apprehension rates to the 1990s leads the researchers to overestimate how many people crossed the border illegally in the 1990s.

Separately, they also overestimate how many of those who came actually stayed, by applying departure rates from studies of immigrants overall—not just unauthorized immigrants—to border crossers. The result of both of these flawed assumptions: the authors vastly overcount how many unauthorized immigrants came and stayed during the 1990s. They conclude the unauthorized population numbered at least 13.3 million in 2000, while DHS put the total at 8.5 million. By overestimating the number who arrived in the 1990s, the researchers’ estimates into later years thus build on a shaky foundation.

Is misaligned with Census data. Demographers have long agreed that the decennial Census undercounts unauthorized immigrants. But the 13.3 million number is highly implausible. It would imply that the 2000 Census missed almost 5 million more unauthorized immigrants than demographers thought, for an undercount rate of 42 percent. That is well in excess of even the highest assessment of the Census undercount. When demographers compared the U.S. Census data to U.S. birth and death records and data from the Mexican Census on changes in the Mexican population, they concluded that the 2000 Census could have undercounted unauthorized Mexican immigrants by at most 26 percent—a far cry from 42 percent. Other assessments were far more modest, including one survey of unauthorized immigrants in Los Angeles, which found that just 10 percent said they had not taken the 2000 Census.

Allows mistakes to snowball over time. Beyond flawed assumptions, the authors also use a flawed process. While they begin with the widely accepted estimate of the size of the unauthorized population in 1990—3.5 million—their method for extrapolating its future size quickly falls apart. From the 1990 number, they estimate the size of the unauthorized population for the following years by adding in their estimates of each year’s illegal border crossers and visa overstayers and subtracting those who die, leave the country, or transition to legal status in that year. But in this accounting method, any error in estimating border crossers or those who leave the country—as explained above—gets compounded over time, leading their mistakes to snowball. By the time they build their estimate of the unauthorized population in 2000, their number is far higher than could be validated by any other means. And building from that highly questionable estimate for later years only leads to even higher, and more flawed, numbers for 2016.

What the Traditional Method Gets Right

The demographers who use the traditional method for estimating the unauthorized population—known as the residual method—start fresh each year, looking at Census data and government data on visas granted to legal immigrants. And then these demographers, who work independently at DHS, the Pew Research Center, and the Center for Migration Studies of New York, to mention the most notable users of this method that MPI also employs, double check their estimates against other sources: Data from Mexico, birth and death records, school enrollment records, and other datasets. In this way, traditional estimates have guardrails: They stay aligned with the best Census and administrative data available on immigrant populations in the United States.

The residual method was put to the real-world test successfully in the 1980s, with estimates generated with this methodology largely similar to the actual number of unauthorized immigrants who came forward to get legalized under a broad legalization offered in the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.

It is also worth noting that while several organizations use the residual method, each has its own proprietary methodology for developing datasets on the unauthorized, and that while these have some variations, their results fall within the same relatively narrow range. That is a far cry from the 13 million swing that the Yale researchers generate in their exercise, depending on which of their assumptions they use.

Over several years, MPI carefully developed its methodology with demographers at The Pennsylvania State University’s Population Research Institute and Temple University. Together, we have been transparent about the assumptions undergirding our methodology, sharing them in leading demographic journals, through presentations at academic conferences, and inviting critiques from others in the field.

It is imperative for the public and decisionmakers alike to know how many unauthorized immigrants are in the country, so that we can determine the effectiveness of our immigration and border-control policies and make any necessary adjustments. Inaccurate, inflated estimates only serve to inflame and confuse the debate, and could lead to poorly designed and wasteful enforcement and policy overreactions.

Irregular or illegal? The fight over what to call the thousands of migrants streaming into Canada

Nice summary. My mother was an “irregular” if not “illegal” when her mother spirited her and her siblings to Latvia when fleeing the Russian Revolution:

On Monday, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen publicly rebuked Ontario’s new government for using the term “illegal border crossers” in a press release.

“I’m very concerned by Premier (Doug) Ford and (provincial) minister (Lisa) MacLeod really making statements that are difficult to understand when it comes to how they’re describing asylum seekers,” Hussen told reporters in Halifax.

The minister was referring to a statement in which Ford blamed Ontario’s housing crisis on Liberal government policies that “encouraged illegal border crossers to come into our country.”

The spat speaks to an intractable political fight in Canada: Whether the approximately 50 people per day streaming into Canada over the U.S. border are “illegal” or “irregular” migrants.

The Immigration and Refugee Board uses the term “irregular” when referring to the more than 23,000 refugee claimants who have walked into Canada since January 2017 without first passing through an official port of entry. The RCMP, meanwhile, prefers the neutral term “interceptions.”

The official CBC language guide favours “illegal border crossers,” calling it “bureaucratic jargon” to use the term “irregular” favoured by Ottawa.

“Some refugee activists have insisted that expressions such as ‘illegal’ border crossings should be banned from our journalism. The modifier ‘illegal’ in this context is accurate and clear, and it instantly helps our audience understand the story,” reads the guide.

In the House of Commons, the use of the term “illegal border crosser” is strictly divided along partisan lines.

It has been uttered 67 times in parliamentary debates since the crisis began in January 2017. Of those, 65 came from the mouths of Conservatives, and the other two came exclusively from New Brunswick Liberal MP Serge Cormier.

“They are not “irregular” border crossers; they are illegal border crossers. Let us get this straight,” Conservative MP John Brassard said in April.

The NDP and Liberal benches, meanwhile, have repeatedly accused the Tories of scaremongering.

“The Conservatives have repeated ad nauseam that these people are crossing the border illegally, implying that they are criminals. However, they have been unable to name a single law broken by the immigrants crossing the border,” said the NDP’s Anne Minh-Thu Quach in April.

Crossing the Canadian border without passing through an official port of entry is indeed illegal. Most migrants illegally crossing the border, in fact, pass directly in front of a bilingual sign telling them that they are breaking the law.

“It is illegal to cross the border here or any place other than a Port of Entry. You will be arrested and detained if you cross here,” reads a sign placed near Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que., a focal point for unauthorized border crossings.

However, the illegality ends up being moot since every border crosser immediately claims asylum after being met by an RCMP officer on the Canadian side.

By doing this, their crossing is still illegal, but Canadian law stops considering them a criminal the moment they claim to be a refugee.

Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (section 133, to be precise), a refugee claimant is explicitly “deferred” from prosecution for a variety of illegal measures that they may have used to enter Canada for claiming asylum.

This includes forging false papers, assuming a false identity and illegally crossing the border.

The measure is an acknowledgement that people fleeing political prosecution can’t always get to Canada without breaking a few laws.

One of the more dramatic examples would be Soviet chess grandmaster Igor Ivanov. On a flight back from Cuba in 1980, Ivanov fled his KGB handlers during an emergency refueling stop in Gander, N.L.

Jumping from an airliner onto an airport tarmac is illegal, but Ivanov was never prosecuted after being granted political asylum.

Immigration lawyer Russ Weninger said it’s a criminal law concept called the “defence of necessity.”

“A person can in some cases perform acts that would otherwise be considered criminal if they must perform those acts to avoid some significant harm,” he said. “For example, if you are fleeing an axe-wielding maniac, you can ‘trespass’ onto someone’s property in order to effect your escape.

It’s why, if a border crosser is a “bona fide refugee,” Weninger says she has a right to enter Canada “whether she waits politely at the border or parachutes onto Parliament Hill.”

It’s for that reason that Toronto immigration lawyer Matthew Jeffery describes the recent crossings as being “perfectly legal.”

He noted that Canada is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees “which legally obliges us to allow those entering the country as refugees to be admitted for a fair adjudication of their case.”

Prior to 2001, anybody on U.S. soil seeking asylum in Canada would have needed only to make their claim at a Canadian border station — no illegal entry necessary.

After the 9/11 attacks, however, the U.S. and Canada struck the Safe Third Country Agreement, a law which allows Canada to turn away refugee claimants from the U.S. on the basis that they are already in a “safe country” and are no longer in need of asylum.

By first crossing the Canadian border, however, asylum-seekers are effectively making an “inland” claim and are thus exempt from the provisions of the act.

Raj Sharma, a Calgary immigration lawyer, said “irregular” is the more accurate term given that an asylum seeker is technically still following Canadian law if they cross the border without authorization.

But the term “illegal” is still appropriate for anyone who is unlawfully crossing Canada’s border after already having been deported — or if they have no intention of making an asylum claim, Sharma said.

“It’s admittedly true that not all ‘irregular’ entries into Canada are legally justified,” said Weninger. “But for those people who are genuinely fleeing persecution, failure to wait in line at the border does not, and should not, preclude them from making successful refugee claims.”

Source: Irregular or illegal? The fight over what to call the thousands of migrants streaming into Canada