5 Immigration Issues Beyond the Ban and the Wall

By Sandy K. Johnson

There are five essential issues on immigration that rise above the Trump administration’s ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations, according to Leon Fresco.

Fresco, an immigration law partner at Holland and Knight who was a deputy assistant attorney general for immigration in the Obama Justice Department, suggested journalists dig deeper on these issues:

1. The surge of families and unaccompanied minors on the border. Almost 60,000 unaccompanied minors were arrested at the border in fiscal 2016, as were 77,000 families.

2. Difficulties in removing criminal aliens. Many states and cities are refusing to give information to the federal government about unauthorized immigrants arrested for crimes. As a result, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency deported far fewer people (100,000) than expected in 2016.

3. Foreign labor issues. The balance between economic necessity (highly skilled workers with H-1B visas and H-2A farm workers, for instance) and potential harm to the U.S. workforce.

4. Status of undocumented immigrants. The Pew Research Center estimates there are 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States, or about 3.5 percent of the population.

5. The future of immigration enforcement. Hence, the discussion at the National Press Foundation Paul Miller fellowship about President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order.

Trump signed the order Jan. 25 banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries. It created an uproar around the world, and is working its way through the federal court system. Fresco suggested it would be ill-advised to force the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court, because a decision there could have consequences down the road when a specific threat emerges such as travelers with Ebola.

Trump has proposed building a wall along the 2,000-mile southwestern border of the United States. There are already 670 miles of fences and other barriers that Fresco said merely slow down illegal immigration, not halt it. He said federal border agents estimate that for every unauthorized immigrant caught, two slip past. The border region with the highest apprehensions is the Rio Grande area in Texas.

Meanwhile, 1 million people lawfully enter the country as “green card” recipients annually, Fresco said. Of those, 600,000 are family immigrants (by marriage or petitions for foreign parents, siblings or adult children), 40,000 are allowed for employment, and 150,000 are refugees and asylum seekers.

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