Immigration reform and immigration enforcement have been in the news a lot in the past couple of years. While these topics have been important issues for decades, there has recently been an increase in discussion after an immigration reform bill was proposed in Congress almost one year ago.
However, before that bill made waves in Congress, there was another significant immigration bill that made news in 1996. Late last month, the Huffington Post posted a story relating to a report released by the Migration Policy Institute.
The report concluded that “4.5 million people have been deported ever since Congress approved the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996.” The report also outlined three areas of immigration enforcement that came about after this 1996 legislation. These three areas include formal removals, non-judicial removal procedures, and immigration-related criminal offenses.
Since 1996, the number of immigrants who have gone through a formal removal process has dramatically increased. In 1996, there were approximately 70,000 formal removals and in 2012, that number grew to 420,000. Before 1996, most people who were arrested for being in the U.S. without documentation were almost always told to “voluntarily return” to their home country, rather than participate in a formal removal process.
Next, non-judicial removals have expanded since the 1996 legislation. A non-judicial removal occurs when an individual is issued a formal order of removal without going in front of a judge. In the past, the decision to deport an immigrant was decided by an immigration judge. Now, immigration enforcement officials may also make that decision in certain circumstances. In 2012, 75% of all deportations were based on non-judicial removals. This is in sharp contrast to 1996, when that number was only 3%.
Finally, there has also been an increase in immigrants being charged with what are referred to as “immigration-related criminal offenses.” One offense that falls into this category is unlawful entry in the United States. It seems that “ the proportion of people apprehended at the Southwest border charged with immigration-related criminal offenses increased from 1%in fiscal year 1997 to 22% in fiscal year 2013.”
So, how has the Obama Administration contributed to this current immigration enforcement status? According to Marc Rosenblum, a co-author of the report, beginning in 2006, “the number of non-criminals removed has fallen.” Furthermore, both the number of those convicted of crimes who have been removed and the ratio of criminal to non-criminal removals has increased.
However, Rosenblum insisted that since 2009, the highest area of growth for criminal removals included those who were convicted of only immigration-related crimes.
How important are these three areas (formal removals, non-judicial removal procedures, and immigration-related criminal offenses) to you? Do you agree with this report and its findings? Are there other areas of immigration enforcement that have changed significantly since the legislation was passed in 1996?
If you are dealing with immigration issues and are considering hiring an attorney, take a moment to contact the Law Offices of Matthew H. Green. My associates and I have the experience and skills to help you work through your legal matters.