Immigration Continues to Decline
May 28, 2019
The Trump administration’s policies and practices have had a dramatic impact on immigration through official processes. Nearly every category of “legal” immigration is down as the result of delays in processing applications and increases in the denial rate. From Forbes:
“It’s a bunch of different policies and decisions that have added up to a significant shift,” said Sarah Pierce, an analyst at the Migration Policy Institute. “I think one reason the slowdown in legal immigration hasn’t gotten as much attention is because it’s not just one big newsworthy change, but rather a bunch of clever, smaller changes that have added up to a large impact.”
Net migration to the United States is down 12 percent (we reported on this a couple of weeks ago here). Some of the specific steps taken in recent years that have led to this decline:
Denials have increased: “From student visas and work authorizations to travel visas and petitions for foreign workers, vetting is up and admissions are down. Data released by USCIS in April shows the rejection rate was 80 percent higher in the final three months of 2018 than the same period in 2016, the last quarter of the Obama administration.”
Time in processing has increased: “The previous high for delayed applications was 1.7 million in fiscal year 2004, as the entire immigration and homeland security apparatus was redone in the wake of 9/11. Now, USCIS reports the backlog reached 2.3 million cases in September 2017 and continues to grow despite just a 4 percent increase in applications. The wait time for some visa categories has nearly doubled.
Failure to admit refugees: “‘In Obama’s last year in office, the country admitted roughly 85,000 refugees. Two years later in 2018, the United States admitted just 22,000. ‘Trump has set the refugee admission ceiling at the lowest level, and we’re not even meeting that very low ceiling’ Pierce said.’”
Attacking the asylum system: “Any person on U.S. soil has the right to ask for asylum, but the metering system—a numbered waiting line at clogged border crossings—has kept some potential asylees from entering the country. Additionally, the administration has raised the bar for getting past the first step in the process, the credible fear interview.”
Read the full story and analysis of impacts from Tovin Lapan, writing in Forbes.
And things are likely to get worse…
Late last week Trump requested, and received, the resignation of current United States Citizenship and Immigration Services director, Lee Cissna. This is the latest in a purge of Department of Homeland Security officials, as Trump seems determined to “get tougher” on immigration. Trump has indicated his intention to appoint Ken Cuccinelli, former Attorney General in Virginia, to the post.
Danielle Spooner, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees union representing USCIS employees, had this to say about Cuccinelli’s appointment:
It has become clear that the goal of this Administration is to end immigration all together. How better to do that then by appointing as the leader of USCIS someone who knows nothing about immigration, Adjustment of Status or Naturalization, and whose sole purpose is to destroy the agency that grants these benefits.
That seems to sum up Trump's agenda well.
Meanwhile, at the border…
As the human rights situations in Guatemala and Honduras continue to decline, the number of people, especially families, seeking asylum in the United States has increased dramatically. Partially because of the hold up at ports of entry - where tens of thousands of refugees are waiting for their “number” to be called so they can cross over from Mexico and apply for asylum, there has been a sharp increase in recent months of people crossing irregularly and then being arrested by Border Patrol agents.
In response to this increase, we would argue the administration would be better served to utilize community release programs on an expanded scale; community release is effective, more humane, and yes, cheaper. As is, the administration only views community release as a last resort - and frames its use as a security crisis, a claim with no empirical foundation.
The actual response of the administration is to build two new “tent” cities to detain families in indefinitely. The New York Times reports on the building of two massive “temporary” shelters in near the Donna and El Paso border crossings in Texas in the video below.