All the political signs and signals in Washington point away from immigration reform in the year to come. Plenty in Congress argue that it’s of vital necessity, but just as many voices agree that it’s not possible for the moment. Politically, it’s a divisive topic just prior to elections, splitting even internally within parties. Plus, while immigration is a major problem, electorates are more concerned with the economy and joblessness, meaning Congress will likely be looking at more economic policies, or in the case of Democrats, focusing on more locally relevant topics.
Elections also pose a problem in that both parties are likely hoping for a more favorable split post mid-terms before putting immigration bills to a vote. President Barack Obama recently put off a review of the immigration system in order to give Congress a few extra months to pass a bill, but it’s difficult not to be skeptical. While legislative action is looking very unlikely, the problems that stem from America’s illegal immigration population are still kicking. Here is a look at three very concerning immigration predicaments that will continue on behind the scenes in the U.S. while political focus is elsewhere.
1. Crime, Imprisonment, and Drugs
According to Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement arm, 82 percent of the 133,551 individuals removed from inside the U.S. for illegal entrance had been convicted of a crime in the past. Most of those caught and deported within the U.S. were notably only level 1 or level 2 offenders, 72 percent in fact. Level 1 offenders are “those aliens convicted of ‘aggravated felonies’,” meaning those crimes that could be punished with over a year imprisonment. Level 3 offenders are those who are convicted of a misdemeanor — more commonly seen among those deported from border areas. Forty-eight percent of “interior criminal removals” were from level 1 individuals, and 24 percent level 2, while 28 percent had been convicted of level 3 crimes. That 28 percent accounts for nearly 31 thousand individuals, however, a concerning number when measured up against President Barack Obama’s promise to go after immigrants with criminal backgrounds, as running stop lights is likely not what he meant. Of those 30,977 with level 3 crimes, 17,547 had records with prior removals and 2,076 were fugitives.
The 2012 Immigration Enforcement Actions Annual Report published in December of 2013 showed a record breaking high of illegal aliens put in detention facilities in 2012, an additional expense for the U.S. government apart from deportations. In total, 477,523 aliens were held in 2012, up 11 percent from the year before. Of those, 64 percent were Mexican nationals, 11 percent were from Guatemala, 8.5 percent from Honduras, and 6.6 percent from El Salvador. The report also stated that, “The most common categories of crime were immigration-related offenses, criminal traffic offenses, and dangerous drugs,” and stated that offenses in general saw a 26 percent rise between 2011 and 2012.
One major issue that sees little attention is those children who cross the border without parents or family and who then become fiscal and social responsibilities of the U.S. government. According to Reuters, approximately 60 thousand children have this very experience, and the U.S. is rushing to figure out how to pay for the strain it puts on social worked necessary to contend with the fall out. This is a particularly serious issue in that it’s one that is likely to get bigger with time.
The number of illegal immigrant minors will probably reach almost 130 thousand by next year, a group of kids with a pricetag near $2 billion, rising from the $868 billion cost in 2014. “This is a humanitarian crisis and it requires a humanitarian response,” said Barbara Mikulski, Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to Reuters. Children born within the U.S. also pose financial problems for the U.S. government. According to The Center for Immigration Studies, an average of 400,000 children are born to mothers who are illegally residing in the country. That CIS puts that at almost one out of ten births, and leads to a great deal of benefit expenses as 39 percent of those mother lack high school educations and are likely in low paying jobs.
3. Deportations and Families
Former Florida Governor and presidential possibility Jeb Bush surprisingly brought up the last item on our list. “The way I look at this is someone who comes to our country because they couldn’t come legally … and they want to make sure their family was intact … yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love,” said J. Bush to The Washington Post. The issue of families being separated by deportation is a difficult one, as the tragedy is also a symptom of a greater problem, and deportations are a necessary evil until citizenship and legal options are better formed to prevent the quandary.
According to a White House Yali Lincroft, a policy consultant and child welfare activist, deportations very often come with family seperations. “When parents are detained or deported, often with little warning or preparation time, their children are often left without consistent and permanent caregivers. Currently, there is an estimated 5,100 children nationwide in the child welfare system because their parents are under immigration custody or have been deported,” she wrote. “This number is expected to rise to 15,000 in the next five years.”
More From Wall St. Cheat Sheet:
- Immigration Reform: 3 Reasons Why Congress Won’t Act This Year
- Where Are America’s Immigrants From? (Hint: It’s Not Just Mexico)
- Obama’s Foreign Policy: America Can’t Make the World a Perfect Place
Follow Anthea Mitchell on Twitter @AntheaWSCS