Several recent reports gave important new data on immigrants in the United States.
First, more immigrants are here than ever before, and they make up the biggest proportion of the U.S. population since 1910—13.7 percent of the U.S. population in 2017, or 44.5 million people. They are also significantly different than the popular picture:
“The Census Bureau’s figures for 2017 confirm a major shift in who is coming to the United States. For years newcomers tended to be from Latin America, but a Brookings Institution analysis of that data shows that 41 percent of the people who said they arrived since 2010 came from Asia. Just 39 percent were from Latin America. About 45 percent were college educated, the analysis found, compared with about 30 percent of those who came between 2000 and 2009.”
Immigrants contribute massively to the U.S. economy, and nearly half of them are naturalized U.S. citizens.
Second, more immigrants, including children, sit in immigration jails for longer periods of time. The number of immigrant children in custody has skyrocketed from 2,400 in May 2017 to 12,800 now. That’s now: after the reunification of most (but not all) of the immigrant families separated at the border earlier this year. Why?
“According to an official with knowledge not cleared to speak publicly, the rate of children being released from HHS has plummeted substantially. At the same time, the average length of time children stay in custody is skyrocketing.
The cause is likely moves by the Trump administration in its aggressive efforts to tighten immigration. Experts fear the result will transform a system created and designed to help put traumatized children on a path to stability into a way to punish them and send a message.“
ICE is asking for an additional billion dollars to increase deportations and detention facilities, such as the Tornillo tent city. While arrests of Mexican border crossers are down, arrests of immigrant families fleeing violence in Central America continue to rise. Trump/Sessions policy is to jail all unauthorized border crossers, and to demand high bail if any are released. That’s not stopping families from fleeing violence:
“Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, an immigrant advocacy group, said families are “fleeing gang violence and instability in Central America.”
“Even with all of the news about family separation, zero-tolerance policies and detention, parents will take the risk and come to the U.S. to try to keep their families safe,” he said.
“Taking a child from her mother is no deterrence when that mother is protecting her daughter from unspeakable violence,” Noorani said.”
Third, jailing immigrants while they await their day in court is expensive and unnecessary. When immigrants are released from custody, immigrants show up for court appearances:
“Overall, 86% of families released from immigration detention attended all of their court hearings, according to a study by the American Immigration Council that reviewed more than 18,000 immigration court hearings initiated between 2001 and 2016. That percentage exceeded 90% when only families who’d filed asylum applications were considered.”