Immigration and border security are once again a huge part of the political conversation as the Nov. 8 general election approaches.
What are the facts about some of the most debated topics?
Here’s what you need to know about immigration issues this upcoming election.
Is there a ‘border invasion’ or border crisis?
As the election cycle ramps up, Republican candidates have continued to perpetuate the notion that there is an “invasion” at the southern border. Similarly, more than half of Americans say that there’s an invasion at the southern border, according to a recent NPR/Ipsos poll.
Kari Lake, the GOP candidate for Arizona governor, has vowed that she will issue a “declaration of invasion” if she wins.
Lake has said in the past that she’d declare an invasion under Article 1, Section 10, of the U.S. Constitution, which prevents states from taking actions, such as declaring war or entering into compacts with other states, without permission of Congress “unless actually invaded.”
Lake’s proposed declaration, however, violates U.S. Supreme Court precedent and a federal law that says only the U.S. attorney general can deputize states to take on duties typically reserved for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, experts say.
Lake’s campaign has acknowledged in the past that the declaration would immediately be met with a lawsuit, delaying action on her campaign promise.
Total encounters along the U.S.-Mexico border surpassed 2 million for the first time in one year, largely exceeding last year’s number of more than 1.7 million arrests, per CBP data.
However, the number of total encounters includes people who have made multiple crossing attempts. CBP has said recidivism rates have increased since the start of the pandemic. So the total number of migrants attempting to cross the border is lower than the number of encounters.
Are there more than 5 million new immigrants and asylum seekers in the US?
During a Hispanic Town Hall event in Phoenix earlier this month, Lake said 5 million people have improperly entered the country.
Her comments echo figures from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, that blamed the Biden administration’s “open-border” policies for drawing 5 million migrants to the country’s borders in 18 months.
Since President Joe Biden took office, however, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has documented 3.6 million migrant encounters.
The number includes 1.78 million migrants who have been admitted into the U.S. and placed in deportation proceedings and the 1.8 million migrants who have been rapidly expelled under Title 42, the Trump-era pandemic health policy.
Total encounters along the U.S.-Mexico border surpassed 2 million for the first time in one year in fiscal year 2022, largely exceeding last year’s number of more than 1.7 million arrests, per CBP data.
However, the number of total encounters includes people who have made multiple crossing attempts, leading to the total number of migrants attempting to cross the border being lower than the number of encounters.
Six out of 10 apprehensions were repeat crossers from March 20, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2021, according to an analysis of Border Patrol data by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.
The Biden administration has admitted 1 million migrants who arrived without papers and are now awaiting asylum hearings in the U.S., the New York Times reported.
For subscribers:Kari Lake’s border ‘invasion’ rhetoric resonates with some Latino voters
Is there an ‘open border’ with Mexico?
The narrative of the U.S.-Mexico border being “open” is largely subjective and dependent on who you ask.
Republican politicians, including Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, have criticized the Biden administration’s approach to the situation at the southern border as “open border policies” since the president took office.
Proponents of the “open border” narrative in the past have pointed to Biden’s support of enforcing unauthorized border crossings as a civil offense instead of a criminal one during a Democratic presidential debate as evidence of open-border policies.
Biden’s decision to halt border wall construction on his first day in office in January also has been contributed to the narrative of open borders. As of January 2021, about 458 miles of barrier have been completed with sites in various stages of construction along the U.S.-Mexico border, per CBP.
Critics of the Biden administration have attributed the record number of encounters along the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal year 2022 to the narrative of the border being “open.”
Despite the open-borders narrative, Biden has continued to enforce Title 42, a health policy instituted under former President Donald Trump, which allows officials to rapidly expel migrants and asylum seekers.
The policy largely has closed official ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border to asylum seekers, leading to people having to present themselves to Border Patrol agents between ports of entry.
More than 1 million people have been expelled from the U.S. under Title 42 so far in fiscal year 2022, per CBP data.
Biden recently expanded the scope of the policy to include migrants from Venezuela, a population that previously had been excluded from Title 42. Any Venezuelan migrants who enter the U.S. between ports of entry and without authorization will now be sent to Mexico, according to CBP.
Additionally, the U.S.-Mexico border is equipped with nearly 20,000 Border Patrol agents, surveillance towers, cameras and tethered blimps to patrol and protect the international boundary, according to 2021 CBP data. In July, a 22-meter ground surveillance blimp was deployed in Nogales, providing 24/7 aerial surveillance of the Arizona-Mexico border.
In March, the Biden administration sought $97.3 billion for the Department of Homeland Security in the president’s fiscal year 2023 budget, an increase of $6.5 billion from the previous year.
Federal construction to close four gaps along the Arizona-Mexico border wall near Yuma will begin in January. The gaps are filled with double-stacked shipping containers under the direction of Ducey, who is planning on filling more gaps elsewhere along the border.
For subscribers:Arizona officials say Gov. Doug Ducey broke no laws with shipping containers at border
What happens to migrants when they are processed and allowed to stay in the US?
According to U.S. laws and policies, when migrants reach the U.S.-Mexico border, they can either be turned away under a pandemic health rule or they are taken into custody to be processed and put in deportation proceedings.
That is largely dictated by a migrant’s country of origin. Most migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador can be quickly expelled to Mexico under Title 42. Venezuelans will be eligible soon after the U.S. and Mexico reached an agreement.
Everyone else who arrives from other countries is taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers or the U.S. Border Patrol. But what happens to them after they are processed varies as well.
The majority of people are processed under what is known as Title 8 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and put under deportation proceedings. But there is a 1.9 million case backlog in the country’s immigration courts, according to Syracuse University’s Transaction Records Access Clearinghouse. It took on average about three years to process a case in immigration court this year, according to TRAC.
In the meantime, migrants can be placed into immigration detention after they are processed. But space is limited, so many more are released into the community with notices to check in with ICE when they arrive to the city they are headed.
Migrants who claim asylum have a year after they were admitted and processed into the country. This past year, there were more than 118,000 that filed asylum applications as of June. Border officials admitted over 1 million migrants during that same time who may be eligible to apply as well.
CBP also encounters individuals with criminal histories. Those with active cases in the U.S. are transferred to the local jurisdictions. Others are charged with illegal reentry, a criminal charge and jailed before they are deported.
Destination USA:Growing numbers of migrants seek asylum in the U.S., but many find a high bureaucratic wall
What is Title 42?
Title 42 is a pandemic health policy instituted in March 2020 that allows U.S. Customs and Border Protection to rapidly expel migrants and asylum seekers to Mexico or to their home countries to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
More than a million people have been expelled from the U.S. under Title 42 so far in fiscal 2022, according to CBP data. Only migrants from Mexico, Venezuela and the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador can be returned to Mexico under Title 42.
The Biden administration recently expanded the scope of the policy to include migrants from Venezuela, a population that had previously been excluded from being expelled under Title 42. Any Venezuelan migrants who enter the U.S. between ports of entry and without authorization will now be sent to Mexico, according to CBP.
In May, Biden tried to rescind the health policy but a federal judge in Louisiana subsequently blocked the administration’s efforts, leaving the policy in place indefinitely. Migrants and asylum seekers have decried Title 42, which has impeded their ability to seek asylum in the U.S. and forced them to wait for months in Mexican border communities, facing discrimination and dangerous conditions.
Under the health policy, official ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border are mostly closed to asylum seekers, with few exceptions made through humanitarian parole. The policy has led to asylum seekers having to present themselves to Border Patrol agents between ports of entry.
Hundreds of asylum seekers present themselves daily to agents near Yuma, sometimes waiting up to 12 hours as the agency is strained by the increased processing demands.
U.S. Border Patrol is unprepared to meet the increase in processing and placement burdens that are expected after Title 42 is rescinded and has no viable plans, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General.
Local and state leaders have continued to press the Biden administration for a viable plan before the rescindment of Title 42.
Report:Border Patrol unprepared for ‘double’ the migrants when pandemic restrictions end
Where do migrants go after crossing the border?
Despite Title 42, the Biden administration has been processing a larger number of migrants under the Title 8 authority of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Those are the standard procedures in use at the border before the COVID-19 pandemic.
This means that instead of being expelled across the border, migrants are processed, taken into custody and either placed in immigration detention or released with a notice to appear later in immigration court.
According to latest CBP numbers, from last October to August, U.S. border officials processed more than 1.1 million migrants under Title 8. A majority were from four countries: Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
Since 2017, U.S. Border Patrol has been releasing migrants to border communities such as Yuma or El Paso, Texas. The scope of the releases grew as the number of migrants from nontraditional countries increased in the past year. Nonprofits have been helping arrange transport for migrants out of border cities and to destinations around the U.S.
Ducey in May began busing migrants from Yuma to Washington, D.C., paid for by the state. To date, they have spent about $3 million to transport over 2,000 migrants. The state has an additional $15 million earmarked for this effort.
Practice continues:Ducey under greater scrutiny as Arizona keeps busing migrants to DC
Ducey is not alone.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been busing migrants since April to D.C., Chicago and New York, and has said he plans to send buses to other mostly-Democrat-led cities.
In September, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis paid to fly two planes with migrants to Martha’s Vineyard. Congress and the Department of Justice are investigating.
Both candidates for Arizona governor, Democrat Katie Hobbs and Lake, have said they oppose using state funds to pay to bus migrants, so that effort is likely to end when Ducey concludes his term in January.
What is the future of DACA?
A ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Oct. 5 cast greater doubt on the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, better known as DACA. It shields undocumented people who were brought to the U.S. as children from deportation and grants them a two-year work permit.
The ruling found that program, established in 2012 by then-President Barack Obama, is unlawful. But it sent the case back to a lower court in Texas to consider regulations the Biden administration issued in August to strengthen the legal standing in favor of keeping DACA. Regardless of the ruling, the future of DACA likely will be decided by the Supreme Court.
‘Dreamers’: Coalition launches campaign to grant ‘Dreamers’ in-state tuition in Arizona
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, there are more than 594,000 DACA recipients in the country. That includes more than 22,000 in Arizona, the fourth highest number among the 50 states and U.S. territories.
Despite the legal uncertainty about the future of DACA, states have continued to expand access to resources to undocumented youth, with or without DACA.
In November, Arizona voters will decide whether to grant undocumented students in-state tuition to public colleges and universities.
Proposition 308 has the backing of large business, community and religious groups. But there is also opposition, mostly among some Republicans, who feel it further encourages unauthorized immigration to the U.S.
How can a person ‘wait in line’ and apply for legal residency in the US?
The agency responsible for processing applications for legal residency in the United States, as well as for dozens of other visa categories to live, study and work in the country, is U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS.
This federal agency employs more than 20,000 people, who have processed more than 5.8 million applications in the first nine months of the fiscal year. However, there is an 8.7 million case backlog that has caused already lengthy wait times to balloon over the past few years.
The backlog at USCIS has been exacerbated by a number of issues. They include a reliance on paper applications, which take longer to process; budget issues that have threatened the solvency of the agency; and months-long closures and restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
USCIS has a website that provides estimates on how long it takes to process applications, based on the type of visa and processing location. The average processing times vary widely.
The three categories with the largest application backlogs are: Form I-130 to admit relatives of U.S. citizens or permanent residents to the country; Form I-90 to obtain a green card; and Form N-400 to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.
According to the USCIS website, some of the lengthiest average wait times are for a U.S. citizen petitioning on behalf of a brother or sister at 140 months or 11.6 years.
Estimated wait times for first time or replacement applications for a green card are about 16 months. It takes the agency about 17 months to process naturalization applications in Phoenix and 18 months in Tucson.
Everyone says the immigration system is broken. Can it be fixed?
While there is bipartisan consensus that there are failures in the U.S. immigration system, public sentiment falls largely along partisan lines when it comes to proposals to fix it.
The Pew Research Center conducted a survey in August to gage how Americans would prioritize changes around immigration and border security.
Respondents who identify as Republican or lean Republican overwhelmingly favored by a 40-point margin to increase the deportations of undocumented immigrants in the country. An overwhelming majority, almost 91 percent, of Republicans said they want stricter controls along the U.S.-Mexico border.
On the other hand, the survey showed that respondents who identify as Democrats or lean Democrat said by a 43-point margin that they favor creating legal pathways for undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S.
Large majorities of Democrats, ranging from 80% to 88%, and a slim majority of Republicans expressed support for taking in refugees, making it easier to sponsor relatives to come to the U.S. legally, and to allow undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to remain in the country.
There have been no recent serious attempts at immigration reform that have gained traction in Congress. That has led lawmakers to pursue a “piecemeal” approach that would allow them to vote on legislation targeting specific groups.
Despite bipartisan support for undocumented youth known as Dreamers, previous attempts to pass laws to grant them legal status have failed repeatedly. Given the uncertainty over the future of the Deferred Action or DACA program, there is an ongoing push to vote on legislation to legalize the program during the lame duck session after the midterm congressional elections.
What has Biden done with the U.S.-Mexico border wall?
On his first day in office in January 2021, Biden paused construction on the border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and rescinded Trump’s 2-year-old national declaration of emergency.
As of Biden’s order, about 458 miles of barrier have been completed with sites in various stages of construction along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
In Arizona, border wall fencing stretches nearly the length of the Arizona-Mexico border with about 226 miles of bollard fencing erected on federal lands in the state from 2017 to 2021.
In July, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas authorized CBP to close four gaps along the Arizona-Mexico border near Yuma to address operational impacts and immediate life and safety risks.
The contracts for the federal initiative, dubbed the Yuma Morelos Dam project, to close the four gaps along the border wall have been awarded and design is underway, according to John Mennell, CBP’s public affairs specialist for Arizona.
“The gaps will be filled using a combination of temporary mesh fencing and mechanized bollard vehicle gates that allow for access to the riverside of the barrier,” said Shelly Barnes, environmental planning lead for the U.S. Border Patrol’s infrastructure portfolio, in the written notice document.
Barnes said the purpose of the federal project is to route migrant traffic to safer locations where migrants can be quickly transported for medical attention; provide improved security and reduce injury and death during crossing; and to protect existing U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission and Bureau of Reclamation infrastructure at the location.
In December, the Department of Homeland Security authorized CBP to move forward with “activities necessary to address life, safety, environmental and remediation requirements” related to border barrier projects. The initiative includes remediation work on existing border wall segments and not the construction of new ones.
In September, CBP announced plans to close small gaps along the U.S.-Mexico border wall, completing construction on unfinished gates, drainage areas and associated foundation work as part of the agency’s border barrier remediation projects.
Gap closure and gate installations in the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector will take place as part of the remediation project. Larger gaps in the border wall will remain after the completion of the remediation process, as the agency does not plan to build an additional barrier at this time, according to CBP.
Republic reporter Daniel Gonzalez contributed to this article.
Have any news tips or story ideas about immigration in the Southwest? Reach the reporter at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter at @RafaelCarranza.
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