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Family-based immigration rests on the principle of family unity. Immediate family members of U. Family-based immigrants must be sponsored by a qualifying relative under any of six categories of relatives. Family-sponsored immigration has accounted for about two-thirds of all permanent immigration to the United States over the last decade.

Employment-based visas for permanent immigration are dedicated to the nation's economic and labor market needs.


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Employment-based immigration is limited to , visas per year, and has accounted for between 12 percent in and 22 percent in of legal immigration in the last decade. In FY, it was 13 percent. Employment-based green cards are available for five categories of workers, the majority of whom must be sponsored by their employer. Additionally, each year, approximately 50, individuals are granted permanent residency through the diversity visa lottery. Under the Immigration Act of , 55, applicants from countries that are underrepresented in U. Noncitizens must qualify for a family-based or employment-based visa, be a refugee or asylee, or be selected in the diversity visa lottery in order to become LPRs, i.

LPRs can permanently live and work in the United States, are eligible to naturalize after a certain number of years, and are subject to removal if they commit a serious crime.

U.S. Immigration Reform and Its Global Impact: Lessons from the Postville Raid

With the exception of spouses, minor children, and parents of U. However, the demand to immigrate greatly exceeds the number of visas Congress authorizes the government to grant. Additionally, no more than 7 percent of immigrant visas can be issued to nationals of a single country. The result has been delays in granting applications for eligible green card petitioners that frequently span many years, especially for immediate family members from Mexico or the Philippines, for example, which are among the top five source countries for legal immigration but face severe delays in getting a green card.

Over the past years, the levels of legal immigration have varied, from over 1 million people per year during the early 20th century to a trickle during the Great Depression and World War II see Figure 2. Immigrants legalized under IRCA caused the number of authorized immigrants to peak in the late s. The s and s, until the recession, have registered historic highs in overall immigration levels. The United States has long been the world's leading country of refuge, providing protection to victims of political, ethnic, religious and other forms of persecution through asylum and refugee resettlement.

Humanitarian protection has been an abiding, albeit sometimes controversial, tenet of U. The statutory determination to qualify as a refugee or asylee is the same. However, the terminology differs: refugees are granted humanitarian relief in a foreign country and travel to the United States for resettlement, while asylees apply for humanitarian status having already reached or are living in the country.

Refugee policy includes a flexible ceiling on admissions that the president and Congress set each year. Admissions may also be made from an "unallocated reserve. The United States admitted large numbers of refugees after World War II, in response to migration waves that occurred in the war's aftermath and in accord with international refugee protocols adopted by the United Nations. In , Congress passed the Refugee Act, a measure that adopted the definition of a refugee in U.

It established, for the first time, a permanent and systematic procedure for admitting refugees, created a formal refugee resettlement process, and provided a statutory base for asylum for the first time. Beginning that same year and throughout the s, U. Offering protection to these refugees, however, was at odds with the Reagan administration's cold war strategy of providing support to Central American governments being challenged by left-wing rebels. As a result, Salvadoran and Guatemalan asylum claims were approved at extremely low rates, while between and , almost one million Salvadorans and Guatemalans are estimated to have entered the United States unlawfully.

During the same period as the Cold War ended, large resettlement programs for refugees from Southeast Asia and the former Soviet Union have been replaced with admissions from a more diverse set of countries. One exception is Cuba, a communist country from which hundreds of thousands have fled since its revolution. This massive emigration led to a agreement intended to prevent Cubans from trying to reach the United States by boat under life-threatening conditions. In FY , there were 36, new immigrants from Cuba, the vast majority entering as refugees.

In the s and s, refugee and humanitarian emergencies led to annual admissions of more than , during some years. FY saw 56, refugee arrivals, down from 73, in FY Burma 16, Iraq 9, Bhutan 14, , Somalia 3, , and Cuba 2, were the top five refugee-sending countries of FY That year, 24, individuals were granted asylum defensive and affirmative , a slight uptick from FY after about ten years of steady decline. There is no cap on asylum approvals. Noncitizens who enter the United States for tourism, work, or study reasons are admitted with a temporary nonimmigrant status.

There are over 70 categories of visas for nonimmigrants, including tourists, business visitors, foreign students, H-1B workers, religious workers, intracompany transferees, diplomats, and representatives of international organizations. Nonimmigrant visas typically have strict terms and conditions, and allow for periods of stay ranging from a few weeks or months to six or more years.

A small number of nonimmigrant visas allow for eventual permanent residency. In , 7. Temporary tourism and business visitors represent the vast majority of nonimmigrant visa holders. Nonimmigrant visas issued to foreign students have increased significantly during the last decade. The , student visas issued in is more than 50 percent greater than the number issued in Much of this growth has been driven by the exponential rise in students from China, who now represent 35 percent of all foreign students. Under the 14th amendment of the U. Citizenship can also be acquired through naturalization.

Permanent residents are eligible for U.

Postville, Iowa Struggles on After ICE Raid

The current exam emphasizes U. The average annual number of naturalizations increased from less than , during the s and s to , during the s, up to , during the s, and again to , between and In , there were , naturalizations, up from , in and , in As of FY , 8. Since the s, a series of new laws and policies have affected naturalization trends. IRCA brought about historically high naturalizations in the mids as the 2. The growing eligibility pool further grew with passage of the laws described above.

They reduced noncitizens' access to federal benefits and legal protections, thus incentivizing naturalization. Between and , the number of naturalization petitions filed nearly tripled, from , to 1,, Naturalization spiked again in as a result of citizenship outreach campaigns ahead of the presidential election, coupled with a scheduled increase in the naturalization application fee that many eligible applicants attempted to beat. In , Mexico accounted for the highest share of naturalizations The largest number of new citizens lived in California 21 percent , Florida Unauthorized immigrants enter the United States by crossing the land border clandestinely between formal ports of entry, using documents fraudulently for admission at a port of entry, or overstaying a valid temporary visa.

Illegal immigration began to build and reach relatively high levels in the early s. Immigration policymaking in the United States has been preoccupied with the issues it represents for much of the four decades since. The numbers of unauthorized immigrants who were not eligible for IRCA's legalization but remained in the United States, in addition to immigration spurred by rapid job creation in the s and early s, combined with powerful push factors in Mexico, have caused the unauthorized population to grow by , to , per year between and After reaching an estimated peak of 12 million in , the unauthorized population has declined in recent years, to Illegal immigration is a bellwether of economic conditions, growing substantially in a strong economy with high demand for low-skilled labor the s and early s , and tapering off with economic contraction since see Figure 4.

The arrival of unauthorized immigrants in large numbers has revitalized certain communities and contributes to local economic growth. At the same time, rapid and unchecked social change and pressure on public services brought about by individuals here illegally has sparked anger and resentment, making immigration a hotly contested issue of national concern. DHS estimates that 59 percent of unauthorized residents are Mexican born; with El Salvador accounting for 6 percent, Guatemala 5 percent, Honduras 3 percent, and China 2 percent.

The ten leading countries of origin also include the Philippines, India, Korea, Ecuador, and Vietnam, which represented 85 percent of the unauthorized immigrant population in Roughly 46 percent of unauthorized adult immigrants are parents of young children. As of , there were 5.

While 1 million of these minors are also unauthorized, the vast majority—4. While the public debate tends to focus disproportionately on questions of who, how many, and what kind of noncitizens should be admitted to the United States, many see immigrant integration as the true test of a successful immigration system. Unlike other traditional immigration countries, such as Canada and Australia, for example, the United States does not have a federally-driven immigrant integration policies or an agency responsible for making sure immigrants effectively become part of U.

Instead, integration policies are limited, underfunded, largely ad hoc, and often target narrow immigrant groups, such as refugees or migrant workers. Historically, schools, churches, employers, and community-based groups have taken the lead at the local level to spearhead immigrant integration efforts that include English classes, job training, and health care clinics. In recent years, several states and cities have launched integration initiatives aimed at improving opportunities and services available to immigrants.

Federal policies that affect immigrant integration outcomes include the No Child Left Behind Act passed in that required schools and funding for states to ensure that limited English proficient LEP children become proficient in English. Access to basic rights and mainstream institutions in American society like most jobs in the labor market, public education, community and emergency health care systems, and citizenship have been the pillars of successful integration, despite that fact that they do not represent explicit, formal policy efforts.

Integration is commonly measured by comparing indicators such as income, education, health, and living standards for foreign and native-born populations. Despite the absence of broad immigrant integration policies, the foreign born have historically become well integrated in the United States. At the same time, today's large numbers of foreign born, especially the sizable unauthorized population who may gain legal status if CIR is enacted, pose substantial immigrant integration challenges for all levels of government and society—as well as for the individuals themselves—in the years ahead.

As illegal immigration intensified during recent decades, immigration enforcement has been the dominant focus of the federal government's response to immigration for at least 25 years. Enforcement involves visa screening; land border enforcement between ports of entry; land, air, and sea ports of entry admissions, employer enforcement, detention and removal of criminals and others who have violated immigration laws, and immigration administrative courts. Nonetheless, the dominant focus of immigration enforcement has been the southwest land border enforcement.

For most of the period since the Border Patrol was created in , chronic lack of funding and adequate resources prevented it from carrying out its mission of preventing illegal border crossings. That began to change with stepped up border enforcement during the s. Since then, the federal government has invested billions of dollars into personnel, infrastructure, and technology on the border.


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  • The Border Patrol now has more than 21, agents, having doubled in size since just ; miles of border fencing has been built mandated in the Secure Fence Act ; and a vast array of cameras, ground sensors, aircraft, and drones are in place. As a result, crossing points that were traditionally used by people entering illegally into the country have been largely closed off, making it difficult, dangerous, and expensive to cross.

    The number of apprehensions the Border Patrol makes has decreased from nearly 1. Immigration enforcement capabilities in the country's interior have also been significantly strengthened. Deportations, federal partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies, and efforts to discourage hiring of unauthorized immigrants are all parts of the equation.

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    Since , the government has carried out more than 4 million deportations or removals. Almost half have occurred since Annual removals have climbed steeply for the last 15 years, from roughly 30, in to , in , to over , in Deportation levels are largely governed by Congress, which provides the enforcement agencies with levels of funding that specify the numbers to be detained and removed each year.

    While some argue that historically high removals enhance national security, public safety, and the rule of law, others contend that the system carries severe human costs to families, children, communities, and tears at the social fabric of the United States. Immigration enforcement has been seen as the responsibility of the federal government since at least the late s.

    However, in , as part of IIRIRA, Congress created a provision called section g which established cooperation between federal and state agencies to enforce immigration laws. This cooperation has been carried out through two widely used but controversial programs: the g program and Secure Communities.

    In its place, Secure Communities is being used in almost every jurisdiction in the country. Money has not been allocated for federal agents to apprehend immigrants at workplaces and in homes located far from the border, said Steven Camarota, research director at Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D. The group favors restricting immigration levels. The raids, regardless of their effectiveness, produced an intense political backlash, resulting in a bipartisan aversion to the enforcement strategy, he and other experts said. It remains the only one that resulted in the mass criminal prosecution of immigrants, and a congressional hearing that investigated the actions of federal law enforcement, prosecutors and the judge involved.

    The raid on Agriprocessors — still one of the largest in history — shocked and galvanized immigrants, their advocates and some in Congress.

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    People pushed back against what they described as a misguided and inhumane response by law enforcement to what, at its core, was a failure of immigration policy, said Margaret Stock, an attorney in Anchorage, Alaska, who has testified before Congress on immigration and homeland security issues. The judicial process was also criticized, and like the raid itself has not attempted again. The workers arrested were processed at a temporary federal court set up at the National Cattle Congress in Waterloo.

    More than served jail time instead of being deported, then the usual procedure. Critics said plea deals that expired one week after the workers' arrests pressured them to accept the deal without seeking further legal advice. Dozens of those deported under the process later received a special visa for crime victims and have returned to the U. In the end, nearly one-fifth of Postville's estimated 2, residents were removed in a matter of hours, devastating the local economy and community. The Postville Raid, the second largest in U.

    A group of 40 women were arrested but released with GPS monitors on their ankles so that they could care for young children, and were held in Postville for over a year during which they were not allowed to work to support their families. These are the life stories, told in their own words, of some of the workers who were affected by the raid. Our only dignified answer should be fair and lasting immigration reform. I remember the stories of the parents and the children who could not find each other, a community simply devastated by the raid, and the religious community stepping up to help, provide shelter, and provide information in the vacuum.