New Data on Unaccompanied Minors Shows Decreasing Trend

By Tom K. Wong, Ph.D. tomkwong@ucsd.edu, @twong002

New data released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on the number of unaccompanied minors coming to the U.S. shows a decreasing trend.

As of June 30, 2014, 56,547 unaccompanied minors from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico were apprehended at the Southwest border. This represents a monthly average of 6,283 for FY 2014. In July, 5,034 children were apprehended at the border. This represents a decrease of -19.9% in the average monthly intake.

Focusing only on the three Central American countries—El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala—that account for the bulk of the recent increase in unaccompanied minors also shows a decrease. As of June 30, 2014, 43,933 unaccompanied minors from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala were apprehended at the Southwest border. This represents a monthly average of 4,881 for FY 2014. In July, 3,973 children from these three countries were apprehended at the border. This represents a decrease of -18.6%.

Looking more closely at the data, we see that the monthly inflow of unaccompanied minors from El Salvador (-12.7%), Guatemala (-43.6%), and Mexico (-24.3%) have decreased, while the monthly inflow of unaccompanied minors from Honduras has increased (+5.2%).

While these data are encouraging, the general decrease in the number of unaccompanied children coming to the Southwest border does not necessarily mean that there will not be another spike. Specifically, annual apprehensions data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows a general overall decrease in apprehensions at the Southwest border during the summer months.

Mapping DACA Renewals

By Tom K. Wong, Ph.D., tomkwong@ucsd.edu, @twong002

PDF of report here

DACA: 2 Years Later 

According to the latest figures released by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), over half a million (521,815) undocumented youth have received temporary relief from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The first DACA applications were submitted on August 15, 2012 and USCIS started approving applications a month later.

DACA is a temporary two-year status, which means that 2014 is the first year that “DACAmented” youth will have to renew their status. USCIS, immigrant-serving organizations, and other stakeholders across the country are already deep in planning and preparing for the renewal process. Will the renewal process mirror the initial success of DACA? To what extent will the costs associated with renewing deter individuals from reapplying? Should we even expect all “DACAmented” youth to reapply These are just some of the questions that loom over the renewal process.

In an effort to inform outreach efforts, this report uses data obtained from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to identify and map where the first wave of DACA renewals are likely to be concentrated.

The Data

The FOIA data analyzed here are the first 146,313 applications submitted to USCIS from August 15, 2012 to September 30, 2012. While it has been 18 months since USCIS began accepting applications, nearly one-quarter of all DACA applications submitted to date were submitted during this time period. Moreover, state-level trends in DACA applications during the first months of the program, with some exceptions, largely mirror current trends.

The data can thus speak to the first wave of DACA renewals and are also informative when it comes to evaluating DACA on the whole. Identifying where DACA renewals are likely to be concentrated is no easy task, as DACA applicants are spread widely across the country. For example, 10,678 zip codes and 1,922 counties are represented in the first 146,313 applications alone. However, there are only 148 counties that are home to between 100 and 449 applicants among the first 146,313 applicants, 33 counties that are home to between 500 and 999 applicants, and 21 counties that are home to more than 1,000. Indeed, the finer-grained the data are, the more leverage we have in identifying DACA renewal “hotspots.”

I note here that complementing this analysis with analysis of where large numbers of estimated DACA-eligible youth have yet to apply at the county- or city-level would add much needed depth to our understanding of the program. However, data limitations currently do not permit this. I refer readers to Wong et al. (2013), which identifies the under-representation of DACA-eligible youth at the state level.

Results

This report identifies and maps DACA renewal “hotspots” across the country. This includes:

1. A map of DACA applications by county for all counties in the U.S. (see Figure 1).

2. County-level maps for California, Texas, New York, Florida, and New Jersey, which represent the top 5 states of residence for DACA applicants during the initial months of the program (Illinois has since supplanted New Jersey in the top 5; see Figures 2 to 6).

3. Zip-code level maps for the Los Angeles metropolitan area, the New York metropolitan area, the greater Houston area, the greater Chicago area, and the Riverside-San Bernardino metropolitan area. These places represent the top 5 metropolitan areas of residence for DACA applicants during the initial months of the program (see Figures 7 to 11).

 

 

Figure 1: Number of DACA Applicants by County for All Counties, 8/15/12 – 9/30/12
map1

Contact author for tabulations

 

 

Figure 2: DACA Applications by County, California (37,797 applications), 8/15/12 - 9/30/12

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Contact author for county-by-county and zip code breakdown

 

 

Figure 3: DACA Applications by County, Texas (22,330 applications), 8/15/12 – 9/30/12

map3

Contact author for county-by-county and zip code breakdown

 

 

Figure 4: DACA Applications by County, New York (11,570 applications), 8/15/12 -9/30/12

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Contact author for county-by-county and zip code breakdown

 

 

Figure 5: DACA Applications by County, Florida (9,049 applications), 8/15/12 – 9/30/12

florida

Contact author for county-by-county and zip code breakdown

 

 

Figure 6: DACA Applications by County, New Jersey (6,484 applications), 8/15/12 - 9/30/12

 newjersey

Contact author for county-by-county and zip code breakdown

 

 

Figure 7: DACA Applications by Zip Code, Greater Los Angeles Area

greaterla

Contact author for county-by-county and zip code breakdown

 

 

Figure 8: DACA Applications by Zip Code, New York Metro Area

nynj

Contact author for county-by-county and zip code breakdown

 

 

Figure 9: DACA Applications by Zip Code, Greater Houston Area

houston

Contact author for county-by-county and zip code breakdown

 

 

Figure 10: DACA Applications by Zip Code, Greater Chicago Area

Chicago

Contact author for county-by-county and zip code breakdown

 

 

Figure 11: DACA Applications by Zip Code, Riverside-San Bernardino MSA

riverside

Contact author for county-by-county and zip code breakdown

 

 

 

Will 2014 Be the Year of Comprehensive Immigration Reform?

Despite hopes that 2013 would be the year of comprehensive immigration reform, legislation stalled in the House and the year ended without a bill. When the House reconvened on Tuesday, 427 days had passed since the November 2012 elections and 194 days had passed since S.744, the Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes a path to citizenship, passed by a vote of 68 to 32. As immigration remains one of President Obama’s top second-term priorities, many are wondering whether comprehensive immigration reform will happen in 2014?

One way to think about whether 2014 will be the year of comprehensive immigration reform is the question of whether S.744 will ever make it to the floor of the House? After the passage of S.744 in the Senate, reform advocates stepped up their pressure on a number of key Republican Representatives. Comprehensive immigration reform was always going to be an uphill climb and, from the very outset, it was clear that the House was the sticking point. Last Spring, I created statistical models to forecast legislative support and opposition to a comprehensive immigration reform bill that included a path to citizenship. Three months prior to the Senate vote on S.744, my analyses suggested that 67 Senators would vote “yea.” I was off by 1 vote. My analyses for the House, on the other hand, suggested that only 203 Representatives would vote “yea,” which is 15 votes shy of a majority in the 435-member chamber. Showing Republican support for comprehensive immigration reform has thus been one of the strategies advocates have used to convince leadership in the GOP-controlled House to bring S.744 up for a vote. By some counts, as many as 29 Republican Representatives now support a path to citizenship.

But while the votes may very well be there, the political will to bring S.744 up for a vote in the House has not been. Speaker of the House John Boehner has been steadfast in his position that immigration reform legislation should be taken up in a step-by-step manner. Moreover, throughout all of 2013, Boehner continued to adhere to the so-called Hastert rule on the issue of immigration reform legislation – in short, nothing was going to be debated unless it had majority support among House Republicans. Recent events, however, have provided cause for optimism that this political dynamic may be changing. While the preference among Republicans to take a piecemeal approach remains, Boehner’s recent stand against the Tea Party faction within the GOP during the budget debate creates an opening, albeit a small one, for S.744 to survive in the House. The last major legalization of undocumented immigrants in 1986 provides an instructive example.

The history of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which led to the legalization of nearly 3 million undocumented immigrants, provides a potential blueprint for S.744. Like S.744, IRCA was first introduced and passed in the Senate (it passed by a vote of 69 to 30). The Senate voted on passage of IRCA on September 19, 1985. It was not until October 9, 1986, or 1 year and 20 days later, that the House voted on the bill. The House used what is referred to as a voice vote – do the “yeas” sound louder than the “nays”? This method provides legislators with a sort of cover for how they voted, as no formal roll call is taken. Boehner has stated that the House would not take up a 1,300-page Senate bill (referring to S.744) that “no one had ever read.” Should a voice vote ever becoming a possibility, this particular line of argumentation will be increasingly untenable, as Representatives have already had over 6 months to read the bill and will have more time to do so as each month passes.

Another way to think about whether 2014 will be the year of comprehensive immigration reform is to think about how comprehensive a step-by-step approach can be? In other words, can a piecemeal approach result in a path to citizenship? In addition to Boehner, another key Republican gatekeeper is House Judiciary Committee (HJC) Chairman Bob Goodlatte. As Chairman, he has allowed a series of piecemeal bills to be voted on in the HJC. When combined, these piecemeal bills add up to a package of reforms that appeals to conservative legislators – tougher interior immigration enforcement, mandatory employment verification, more visas for high-skilled immigrants, and an agricultural guestworker program. This package does not include a path to citizenship for the 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country, though discussions continue about a legalization program for undocumented youth (the “Kids Act”).

Because these piecemeal bills appeal to conservative legislators, they are likely to be approved if voted on by the Republican-led House – my own simulations support this. Moreover, because these piecemeal bills do not include a path to citizenship, they are likely to be non-starters for many in the Senate. On this point, some have suggested that a conference committee will eventually lead to a bill that includes a path to citizenship. I am not as convinced as others. First, leadership in the respective chambers selects conference committee participants. Second, what results from a conference committee, called the conference report, ultimately has to be voted on by both chambers. In other words, the House must ultimately vote on what the conference committee decides.

Here is one potential bargaining scenario. In conference, Senate conferees call for a full path to citizenship and House conferees respond with the “Kids Act.” What we have heard from Senator Chuck Schumer is that no compromises will be made to the path to citizenship in the Senate bill. Taking Schumer at his word, this means that no legislation will result. This, as a matter of politics, benefits Republicans as much as it benefits Democrats. Democrats will be in a position to place blame on Republicans. However, Republicans will also be able to counter with the argument that they negotiated with Democrats and that these negotiations included an expedited path to citizenship for undocumented youth. This, in my opinion, is why Goodlatte has expressed support for a “Kids Act” type of bill. Ultimately, what results from this potential scenario is likely to be continued stalemate.

A third way to think about whether 2014 will be the year of comprehensive immigration reform is to look forward to the November 2014 midterm election results. Recent political history suggests that Republicans will gain seats in the House of Representatives. A shift in control of the House from Republicans to Democrats after the 2014 midterm elections is unlikely. The party of the President tends to lose seats during midterm elections. In 15 out of the last 17 midterm elections, the party of the President has lost seats. Political scientists explain this trend, in part, by describing midterm elections as opportunities for those who lost during the previous presidential election to voice their dissatisfaction. Thus, while many Republican representatives may be vulnerable in 2014, there are many Democrats who are also vulnerable.

There are, however, some key races that may impact the future prospects of comprehensive immigration reform. First, Representative Steve King’s (R, IA-4) re-election race should be followed closely. King, perhaps more than any other person, has been the face of anti-reform efforts in the House. King won his seat in 2012 by only 7.9 points (30,593 votes). A successful re-election campaign by King will signal to other Republicans that being anti-immigrant is not political suicide. However, if King loses – and assuming that advocates can make the case that his hard-lined positions on immigration contributed to his loss – then this can go a long way towards propelling reform efforts forward after the midterm elections. Second, Representative Jeff Denham’s (R, CA-10) race is also an important one. In 2012, he won by only 5.4 points (11,331 votes). If he wins, and wins big, Denham and his public support for comprehensive immigration reform – he is one of three Republicans who has signed on as a co-sponsor of H.R. 15 – can be held up as an exemplar for other Republicans. Representative Gary Miller’s (R, CA-31) race is also an important one to watch. Miller has an A+ grade from NumbersUSA, a group that is staunchly opposed to reform efforts that include a path to citizenship. After the latest round of redistricting, Miller finds himself in a district that is overwhelmingly Hispanic/Latino and Asian. Lastly, three Republican Senators who voted for S. 744 are up for re-election in 2014. These are Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Alexander and Graham, in particular, faced Tea Party criticism after the Senate vote. Their respective re-elections can serve to further marginalize the Tea Party on the issue of immigration in two traditionally red states.

Lastly, whether 2014 will be the year of comprehensive immigration reform may hinge on the efforts of reform advocates who are working outside of the realm of D.C.-based politics. These individuals and groups have grown increasingly weary of the political stalemate and legislative inaction that has characterized immigration politics in recent years and have become more vocal in calling on President Obama to use his executive authority to halt deportations. The activism of these individuals and groups may amplify in 2014, particularly around the summer, if legislative solutions are not reached. September 2014 marks the first month that undocumented youth who received temporary relief from deportation via President Obama’s policy of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) will have to renew their DACA status. While these youth knew from the outset that their DACA status had to be renewed every two years, many advocates thought that a permanent solution in the form of legislation would have been reached before we reached this stage. The act of having to renew a temporary status may very well embolden activists to seek new, more creative, and perhaps even more aggressive means to achieve a permanent fix to our nation’s broken immigration system.

Can GOP Keep House in 2014 Without Comprehensive Immigration Reform?

By Tom K. Wong, Ph.D., tomkwong@ucsd.edu, @twong002

As Republicans prepare to meet to discuss how immigration reform will proceed in the House, Speaker John Boehner has maintained that he will adhere to the Hastert rule when it comes to immigration – in other words, he will not support any piece of legislation that does not have majority support among Republican representatives.

Much of this Republican caucus will involve discussions between House Republican leadership and the Republican rank-and-file over how immigration reform fits into the party’s short-term and long-term political prospects. Here, Republicans are at odds. On the one hand, Republican leadership will undoubtedly have an eye towards the future viability of the Republican brand – this includes the ability of Republicans to compete in national elections. On the other hand, many of the Republican rank-and-file may have an eye towards their own short-term electoral survival. Whereas the former may mean supporting comprehensive immigration reform, the latter may lead some within the Republican rank-and-file to oppose it.

For Republican leadership with an eye towards the viability of the party one of the most immediate concerns may be holding onto Republican control of the House in 2014. There are currently 234 Republicans and 201 Democrats in the House. This means that a Republican loss/Democratic gain of 17 seats will shift the balance of power. When viewed from this perspective the question that leadership should be asking, irrespective of the Hastert rule, is will opposition to immigration reform cost 17 seats in 2014?

To start, there are 33 Republican representatives who are expected to oppose an S.744-type of immigration reform bill, but who are electorally vulnerable headed into 2014. Taking a closer look at these 33 representatives, 18 are in competitive/swing districts. A Republican loss/Democratic gain of these 18 seats, all else equal (I know, all is rarely equal) means a Democratically-controlled House in 2014.

In comparing the districts of these 18 representatives with the districts of Republicans who are not electorally vulnerable and are in safe red districts, clear demographic differences emerge that magnify the salience and importance of supporting immigration reform.

First, we see that the Asian percentage of the total population is 2.2 times higher in these 18 districts than it is in safer Republican districts. This difference, 6.2% versus 2.8%, is highly statistically significant – in other words, the difference is not due to chance. We also see that the Hispanic/Latino percentage of the total population is 1.5 times higher. This difference, 14.6% versus 10.1%, is also statistically significant.

Electoral competition does not occur in a vacuum and, as some Republicans have suggested, increased outreach to white voters may attenuate the electoral effects of demographic change. However, when viewed from a different lens, we see even more striking differences. The average number of young Hispanics/Latinos and Asians who will come of voting age in 2014 is 1.7 times higher in these 18 districts than it is in safer Republican districts. This difference, 10,464 versus 6,171, is highly statistically significant. This trend continues when looking at the young Hispanic/Latino and Asian population who will come of voting age in 2016.

In fact, 6 representatives will see their total 2012 margin of victory eclipsed by the number of young Hispanics/Latinos and Asians who turn 18 in 2014.

In addition, 1 representative’s 2012 margin of victory will be eclipsed by the number of young Hispanics/Latinos and Asians who turn 18 in 2016 and 4 more representatives have young Hispanic/Latino and Asians populations that place their long-term electoral survival in doubtI note here that there are other Republicans who face similar outlooks, such as Representative David Valadao (CA-21). However, Valadao has expressed support for immigration reform.

Screen Shot 2013-07-09 at 4.07.07 PM

Another group of Republican representatives is also worth mentioning. There are 10 representatives who are in traditionally safe Republican districts, but are electorally vulnerable and represent districts that are rapidly changing demographically.

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It is yet unclear how Republicans will proceed on immigration. However, it seems clear that the approach that Republicans take and, perhaps more importantly, whether they are perceived as working towards or standing in the way of reform, will have serious implications in the districts identified above.  

Tom K. Wong, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of political science at UC San Diego. He is an expert on immigration politics and policy. He is a research associate at CCIS and beginning in fall 2013 he will be Director of the International Migration Studies Program at UC San Diego.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform in the House: Will the SAFE Act Pass?

By Tom K. Wong, Ph.D., tomkwong@ucsd.edu, @twong002

After the Senate passed S.744 attention shifted immediately to the House. While an upcoming July 10th conference wherein Republican representatives are set to gather to discuss immigration will provide greater clarity in terms of what we can expect in the weeks ahead, Speaker of the House John Boehner has already indicated that he will adhere to the Hastert rule when it comes to immigration reform. What this means is that we are unlikely to see S.744 debated and then voted on in the House. Rather, we are likely to see stand-alone immigration bills introduced, debated, and then voted on, one by one (e.g., the piecemeal approach).

While a House vote on S.744 or an equivalent comprehensive immigration reform package is still possible, the next series of posts in the CIR 2013 Blog will focus on simulating vote outcomes for the major stand-alone bills that are already working their way through the House, beginning with the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act or SAFE Act.

The SAFE Act focuses on interior immigration enforcement. While Title III of S.744 also focuses on interior immigration enforcement, the SAFE Act is distinct. First, the SAFE Act would make being undocumented, more specifically, “being unlawfully present in the United States,” a federal crime. It is already a federal crime to enter the U.S. without authorization. The SAFE Act would thus add the act of living (without authorization) to this list. The bill also provides states and localities “specific congressional authorization to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law and includes provisions to facilitate their assistance.” Moreover, as described by the House Judiciary Committee, it allows states and localities to enact and enforce their own immigration laws, which speaks directly to state-level immigration policies such as Arizona’s SB 1070 and Alabama’s HB 56.

The SAFE Act carries many of the hallmarks of H.R. 4437 – the restrictive immigration enforcement bill passed in the House in 2005, which sparked nationwide protests in 2006. For example section 203 of H.R. 4437 also made unlawful presence a crime and section 220, among other sections, also affirmed the authority of states and localities to assist in enforcing federal immigration laws.

While proponents of the SAFE Act see tougher interior immigration enforcement as an essential component of immigration reform, critics oppose it as an overly punitive measure. The SAFE Act is thus sure to be a lightning rod of controversy as the immigration debate moves forward in the House.

Will the SAFE Act pass in the House?

The answer is yes and no. Congressional efforts to tighten interior immigration enforcement did not end with H.R. 4437. Year after year, legislation has been introduced that either affirms the authority of localities to enforce federal immigration laws or facilitates and enhances it. These distinctions are meaningful, as the varying degrees of restrictiveness in interior immigration enforcement have led to markedly different vote outcomes.

Thus the conclusion is that the SAFE Act will likely pass, but if it is amended so that the bill includes stricter and even more punitive enforcement provisions it will not.

The following provides two examples.

SAFE Act “Lite”

An analysis of 2,067 roll call votes that speak to local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration officials (e.g., “affirms the inherent authority of,” prohibits federal funds for sanctuary cities) shows passage. Analyzing these past votes and then simulating a vote for current House representatives shows 233 “solid yes” votes. An additional 9 representatives are categorized as “lean yes.” This gives us a range of 233 to 242 potential “yes” votes. Among these, 232 are Republicans and 10 are Democrats. Contact author for full list.

SAFE Act

However, during the 2005 debate over H.R. 4437 an amendment was introduced and voted on (the Sullivan amendment) that moved interior immigration enforcement further to the right along a permissive/restrictive spectrum. This amendment not only sought to affirm the authority of localities to enforce immigration laws, but it also facilitated and enhanced their ability to do so via changes to immigration detention (see section 240D of the amendment; in short, all apprehended undocumented immigrants, with some exceptions, would be held in immigration detention). Surprisingly, the Sullivan amendment was criticized by Republican Representative Jim Sensenbrenner as being “unworkable” given it would lead to overcrowding of immigration detention centers and thus “all of a sudden, there are going to be criminal aliens that are going to be either released on the street or not being put in detention simply because there are not the slots that are available” (see Sullivan amendment link for text from Congressional record). He also voiced practical concerns about infrastructure and costs.

The amendment would have also changed the landscape of interior immigration enforcement by expanding the practice of expedited removal nationwide. Expedited removal gives the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the authority to remove (deport) undocumented immigrants without the oversight of an immigration judge. Currently limited to border regions, the Sullivan amendment would have extended this practice to all parts of the country, wherever undocumented immigrants where apprehended. Democratic Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee criticized this aspect of the amendment for clearly violating civil liberties and rights of due process.

Analyzing the Sullivan amendment and then simulating a vote for current House representatives shows 193 “solid yes” votes. An additional 15 representatives are categorized as “lean yes” – 9 Republicans and 6 Democrats. This gives us a range of 193 to 208 potential “yes” votes. 32 Republicans are categorized as “lean no.” Contact author for full list.

Conclusion

If the SAFE Act simply affirmed the authority of localities to enforce federal immigration laws and withheld federal funds from sanctuary cities, the results show passage by a healthy margin with 233 to 242 “yes” votes. However, the SAFE Act goes further than this – it is yet unclear how far it will go. If what the SAFE Act ultimately becomes is analogous to the Sullivan amendment, then the results show no passage with only 193 to 208 “yes” votes.

To be clear, the contrast I make here between the “SAFE Act Lite” and the Sullivan amendment represent two very different positions along the interior immigration enforcement spectrum. However, this is instructive in that it shows that moderate reforms to interior immigration enforcement can attract bipartisan support, whereas more extreme reforms are likely to attract broader bipartisan opposition. This broader opposition, as the Sullivan amendment shows, can not align across claims to civil liberties and rights of due process, but also on “workability,” meaning the practicality and costs associated with significant changes to interior immigration enforcement. I should note here that what constitutes “extreme” is a major wildcard. If representatives today have a softer view of extreme than they did in 2005, then we can expect more support for interior enforcement measures such as those included in the Sullivan amendment (and vice versa).

As the SAFE Act moves closer to final passage and the details of the bill become clearer, I will update this analysis. 

Tom K. Wong, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of political science at UC San Diego. He is an expert on immigration politics and policy. He is a research associate at CCIS and beginning in fall 2013 he will be Director of the International Migration Studies Program at UC San Diego.

Will Comprehensive Immigration Reform Pass in the Senate? An Update

By Tom K. Wong, Ph.D., tomkwong@ucsd.edu, @twong002

This week marks a critical test for comprehensive immigration reform. In advance of a scheduled vote on the bill, I revisit the initial predictions I made for the Senate in March. Scroll down for the results.

The Senate bill has largely remained in tact – mostly due to the absence of floor votes on a number of significant amendments. However, there have been some major developments. First, several efforts to use border triggers to prevent undocumented immigrants from obtaining legal status have been defeated. Second, the Corker-Hoeven amendment to significantly bolster border security via a combination of increased personnel, fencing, technology, and other resources is likely to be voted on (and passed) this week.

I thus update my previous analyses by a) factoring in recent roll call votes on border trigger amendments – the Grassley, Thune, Paul, and Cornyn amendments – and b) past voting on border security measures that mirror the Corker-Hoeven amendment.

Republicans to Watch

Altogether, Republicans that are likely to support the bill are:

Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Jeff Flake (Arizona), John McCain (Arizona), Marco Rubio (Florida), Mark Kirk (Illinois), Susan Collins (Maine), Dean Heller (Nevada), Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire), Jeffrey Chiesa (New Jersey), John Hoeven (North Dakota), Rob Portman (Ohio), Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), Bob Corker (Tennessee), Orrin Hatch (Utah), and Ron Johnson (Wisconsin).

In March, in addition to the 4 Republican members of the “gang of 8,” my models pegged the following Republicans as “solid yes” votes: Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Mark Kirk (Illinois), Dean Heller (NV), and Patrick Toomey (Pennsylvania). All but Patrick Toomey are still predicted as “yes” votes. Moreover, my models also pegged some Republicans who have publicly expressed support for the Senate bill as “lean yes/no” votes (i.e., confidence intervals around their respective predicted probabilities intersect 0.5). These are: Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire), John Hoeven (North Dakota), and Orrin Hatch (Utah) – it would be awesome if I could also claim Bob Corker (Tennessee) on this list, but, alas, no.

While the recent votes on the border trigger amendments add some clarity to the predictions – mostly by reclassifying those as leaning one way or another into solid yes or no votes – there are some Republicans who remain in the “lean yes” category: Susan Collins (Maine), Rob Portman (Ohio), and Ron Johnson (Wisconsin). Note: Jeffrey Chiesa (New Jersey) is also predicted as a “lean yes” vote.

It is interesting to note that some of the most vocal opponents of the Senate bill – including John Cornyn (Texas), Ted Cruz (Texas), and Mike Lee (Utah) – are predicted as “lean no” rather than “solid no” votes in the updated analysis. Of course, I do not think that these are really swing votes. However, they are categorized as such given the large foreign-born populations in their respective states and the increased border security measures in the bill. It will thus be interesting to follow how a “no” vote by these Senators translates with voters during their next elections.

Democrats to Watch

In factoring in the border trigger votes, only 1 Democrat stands out as a potential “lean no” vote: Mark Pryor (Arkansas). Note: there are no Democrats predicted as “solid no” votes. In March, my models characterized Senator Pryor as a “lean yes” vote. However, he recently voted against tabling the Grassley and Cornyn amendments. It is also worth noting that while he is predicted as a “solid yes” vote, Joe Manchin (West Virginia) is another Democrat who voted against tabling the Grassley and Cornyn amendments.

Conclusion

There are 62 Senators predicted as “solid yes” votes, 6 who “lean yes,” 11 who “lean no,” and 21 predicted as “solid no” votes. A full list is available here. Assuming that all who are predicted as “solid yes” or “lean yes” actually vote yes, we have 68 votes for the bill. Assuming that Mark Pryor joins the “yes” votes, this leads to a total of 69 votes for the bill. As the confidence intervals around the predicted probabilities of the “lean no” votes intersect 0.5, after excluding Senators Cornyn, Cruz, and Lee, we can reasonably suspect an upper limit of 76 yes votes, though this would be a real far reach.

In March, the data pointed to 67 to 71 yes votes on CIR. Today, after factoring in the border trigger votes and the increased border security measures, the data point to 69 to 76 yes votes. For those who argue that stricter border security measures are necessary for increasing support for the bill, there is some support for this (moving from an upper limit of 71 to 76). However, for others who argue that stricter border security is unnecessary for securing a filibuster-proof vote, there is also support for this (the needle was already at 67 and moved only to 69).

Tom K. Wong, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of political science at UC San Diego. He is an expert on immigration politics and policy. He is a research associate at CCIS and beginning in fall 2013 he will be Director of the International Migration Studies Program at UC San Diego.

A Test of the CIR 2013 Blog: The 287(g) Vote

By Tom K. Wong, tomkwong@ucsd.edu, @twong002

While we are still far from a vote on final passage of the comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill in the Senate, a vote yesterday in the House provides an early test of the models and predictions of the CIR 2013 Blog.

Yesterday, the House voted on an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriation bill that was introduced by Democratic Representative Jared Polis (CO-2). The amendment was related to the controversial 287(g) program, which promotes local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration officials. Last week, I was asked to help count votes for and against the amendment.

1

The model predicted up to 185 yes votes on the Polis amendment. The actual votes was 180, which means that the model performed within 97% of the actual vote.

Taking a look at the actual roll call, we see that the model correctly predicted 94% of the actual votes cast – nearly 400 representatives were correctly predicted out of the 425 who voted.

92.3% of those predicted as “solid yes” votes actually voted yes. 92.3% of those predicted as “lean yes” votes actually voted yes. And 99.6% of those predicted as “solid no” votes actually voted no (Michelle Bachman was the lone “solid no” vote who voted yes). The model performed the worst with the “lean no” category. Only 31.5% of those who were predicted as “lean no” votes actually voted no.

Tom K. Wong, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of political science at UC San Diego. He is an expert on immigration politics and policy. He is a research associate at CCIS and beginning in fall 2013 he will be Director of the International Migration Studies Program at UC San Diego.

Does Legalization Encourage Unauthorized Immigration?

By Hillary Kosnac, hkosnac@ucsd.edu, and Tom K. Wong, tomkwong@ucsd.edu, @twong002

Chances that 2013 will bring a comprehensive immigration reform bill (CIR) that includes a path to citizenship increased recently after the bipartisan Senate “gang of 8’s” bill was voted out of committee (and largely in tact after some 300 amendments were considered). However, the optimism surrounding the bill was quickly tempered as the House Judiciary Committee (HJC) held a hearing in which the legalization of undocumented immigrants and an eventual path to citizenship were sharply questioned.

These questions renewed debate over whether legalization (or even just talk of legalization) leads to more unauthorized immigration, particularly from Mexico. In response to Republican Representative Louie Gohmert’s (TX-1) claim during the HJC hearing that talk of legalization leads to a “dramatic uptick in people coming across the border illegally,” an expert witness stated, “every time that we talk about some sort of immigration reform, especially when there are still questions out there, there is some kind of increase.” This witness, however, concluded his answer by stating “can’t give you what that increase is, I don’t know.”

Given legalization and a path to citizenship are at the core of immigration reform efforts on the one hand and concerns about the “moral hazard” of legalization – i.e., the fear that legalization now will encourage more unauthorized immigration down the road – generate intense opposition to reform efforts on the other, it is critical to provide better answers than “I don’t know.”

While there has yet to be a silver bullet one way or another, there is a way to empirically evaluate whether (prospective) legalization encourages more unauthorized immigration. Since 2005, the Mexican Migration Field Research Program (MMFRP) housed at the University of California, San Diego has conducted thousands of interviews with prospective migrants in Mexico. During the last push for immigration reform in 2006 and 2007, the MMFRP surveyed nearly 900 persons. Questions participants were asked included whether they had an intent to immigrate to the U.S., if yes, the reason for wanting to immigrate, as well as questions about what they knew about the details of the proposed CIR bill.

One way that we could observe whether a moral hazard related to legalization exists is if respondents who expressed an intent to immigrate cited “amnesty” as their primary motivation. Another way that we could observe moral hazard is if those who knew about the legalization component of the proposed CIR bill were more likely to express an intent to immigrate than those who did not know about the legalization. We take each of these possibilities in turn.

Is “Amnesty” a Motivating Factor?

The 2007 MMFRP included 861 respondents 236 of these were either born in the U.S. or were legal permanent residents. The remaining 625 respondents comprise a pool of prospective undocumented immigrants. Among these 625 people, only 130 or 23.7% stated that they intended to immigrate to the U.S. (419 did not intend to immigrate and 76 did not respond). For those that expressed an intent to immigrate, a follow up question was asked regarding their reasons for wanting to come to the U.S. “Amnesty” was one option among over a dozen potential reasons. Of all of the respondents who expressed an intent to immigrate, zero stated amnesty as one of their primary reasons for wanting to come to the U.S.

It is important to note here that social desirability bias may be at play. This refers to respondents answering survey questions in ways that fit what they think the person asking the questions wants to hear (or in ways that may be viewed favorably by others), instead of in ways that reflect how the respondent truly thinks and feels. We thus take one step further.

Does Knowing About Legalization Promote Unauthorized Immigration?

The MMFRP also allows us to examine what prospective immigrants in Mexico knew about the proposed CIR bill – including legalization. If knowing about legalization leads to an increase in unauthorized immigration, we would expect that a large majority of respondents who knew about the proposed legalization would want to immigrate. The data do not show this. In fact, just 21.1% (16 out of 76) of those who knew about the legalization expressed an intent to immigrate. This means that 78.9% of prospective undocumented immigrants who knew about the proposed legalization had no intention of leaving Mexico.

We can also view this from a slightly different perspective. If talk of legalization is enough to cause an uptick in unauthorized immigration, then there should be an observable statistically significant difference in the intent to immigrate between those who know about legalization and those who do not. Again, the data do not support this. Surprisingly, not only is there no statistically significant difference between these two groups, but those who did not know about the legalization were slightly more likely to express an intent to immigrate than those who did. As indicated above, while 21.1% of those who knew about the proposed legalization wanted to immigrate, 24.1% (114 out of 473) who did not know about it expressed an intent to leave Mexico.

The 2013 MMFRP

Preliminary analysis of the 2013 MMFRP (n = 610) provides a window into the question of moral hazard in the context of the current immigration reform debate. While the 2013 MMFRP also asks the question of intent to immigrate, it does so for only a subset of respondents. As a result, only 75 prospective undocumented immigrants were asked whether they had an intent to immigrate. Moreover, unlike the 2007 MMFRP, the 2013 survey did not ask the follow up question of “why.” However, it did ask, “Do you think there’s going to be an amnesty in the US in the next 4 years.”

Again, if hopes of legalization were enough to encourage more unauthorized immigration, we would expect those who responded yes to the “amnesty” question to want to immigrate more so than those who responded no. The data do not support this. Just 26.7% (12 out of 45) of prospective undocumented immigrants who thought there was going to be “amnesty” in the next 4 years expressed an intent to immigrate, which means that 73.3% had no intention of leaving. There is also no statistically significant difference in the intent to immigrate between those who think there will be “amnesty” and those who do not. While 26.7% of those who think there will be “amnesty” wanted to immigrate, 31.8% (7 out of 22) who did not think so expressed an intent to leave Mexico for the U.S.

Inconclusive, but Better than “I Don’t Know”

To be sure, the analysis here does not provide a definitive answer to the question of moral hazard – however, while the evidence is inconclusive and more analysis is needed, these results provide cause to challenge the assertion that simply talking about legalization prompts a dramatic uptick in unauthorized immigration.

In both 2007 and 2013, the large majority of prospective undocumented immigrants with knowledge or optimism regarding “amnesty” expressed no intent to leave Mexico. Additionally we found no statistically significant difference in the intent to immigrate between those who have knowledge or optimism of “amnesty” and those who do not. While the MMFRP datasets provide a way to empirically examine the question of moral hazard as it relates to legalization, limitations do exist. One limitation is the generalizability of the findings. Each year the MMFRP conducts its research in one of three Mexican sending communities: Tlacuitapa, Jalisco, Tunkás, Yucatán, and San Miguel Tlacotepec, Oaxaca. It would thus be a stretch to say that the surveys are representative of the Mexican population as a whole – and we do not claim that it is. However, given the politically sensitive nature of claims that unauthorized immigration will increase as a result of legalization (or just talk of it), we cannot rely on answers of “I don’t know.” Does legalization encourage more unauthorized immigration? This analysis suggests no, but more research is needed.

Hillary Kosnac is a graduate student at UC San Diego. Tom K. Wong, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of political science at UC San Diego. He is an expert on immigration politics and policy. He is a research associate at CCIS and beginning in fall 2013 he will be Director of the International Migration Studies Program at UC San Diego.

 

Interior Immigration Enforcement by the Numbers

By Matt Graham, Bipartisan Policy Center, @matt__graham

Opinions on the extent to which the U.S. enforces immigration laws vary dramatically. Some contend that enforcement is already extremely tough, while others contend that the government fails to enforce immigration law. Rarely are these claims backed by more than one or two statistics.

Based on a long series of Freedom of Information Act requests, the Transactional Record Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) keeps records of immigration enforcement statistics. Their numbers paint a more nuanced picture than either side’s advocates, but leave major holes that available data appear unable to fill.

Removals (Deportations)

The common claim that the Obama Administration deports unauthorized immigrants in record numbers is true. Figure 1 reports the total number of removals each fiscal year between 1980 and 2011. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defines a removal as “the compulsory and confirmed movement of an inadmissible or deportable alien out of the United States based on an order of removal.” These numbers do not include individuals that were “turned back” at the border—only individuals who went through either an administrative or judicial removal process.

Figure 1. Number of alien removals, FY 1980—2011

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Source: Department of Homeland Security, Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, 2011.

It is important to note, however, that looking at only the number of deportations can be misleading. The number of new removals ordered in immigration court has dropped each year that President Obama has been in office, as has the number of deportation proceedings.

Figure 2. Number of removals ordered in immigration courts, FY 1998—2013

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Source: TRAC. FY 2013 figures include only October through April.

Figure 3. Number of deportation proceedings in immigration courts, FY 1992—2013

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Source: TRAC. FY 2013 figures include only October through April.

Like the total number of deportations, court actions do not tell the whole story. This is because not all deportations are a result of immigration court cases. Table 1 suggests that a large and increasing share of deportations occur without ever going to immigration court. TRAC forwards two potential reasons for this, but explains that data are not sufficient to parse between them:

  • Reinstated orders. Already-deported immigrants who re-enter the country illegally do not get a new deportation order, but they are deported again. In May 2012, 34.7 percent of all deportations were reinstated orders.
  • Administrative removals. Not all types of deportation require a hearing. For example, immigrants previously convicted of aggravated felonies may be removed administratively. Removals that never reach court still count as deportations, but do not appear in statistics about immigration courts.
  • Incomplete data. Elsewhere, TRAC has alleged that ICE does not release sufficient data to resolve some perceived data inconsistencies.

Table 1. Immigration court orders versus actual deportations, FY 2010—12

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Source: TRAC.

Among those deportation cases that do reach immigration court, the share that end in an allowance to stay in the U.S. has risen dramatically (Figure 4). This rapid increase may be due in part to President Obama’s deferred action program, which allows “DREAMers” to avoid deportation. Additionally, if the government is deporting more immigrants administratively, it could follow that individuals who reach immigration court now tend to have less serious criminal backgrounds. Data presented later (Figure 6) suggest that this is plausible.

Figure 4. Percent of deportation cases ending in allowance to stay in the U.S., FY 1998—2013

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Source: TRAC. FY 2013 figures include only October through April.

Spending

Money provides another measure of the U.S. government’s commitment to interior enforcement. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the principal DHS office responsible for interior enforcement of U.S. immigration law. Its budget increased rapidly since 2005, but has dropped slightly since the recession began having major budget impacts in FY 2009.

Figure 5. ICE budget, FY 2005—13

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Source: TRAC (2005-10), DHS (2011-12), CRS (2013). Note: 2005-10 figures represent total expenditures. 2011-12 represent enacted budget. 2013 represents pre-sequester enacted budget.

Criminal Activity

The extent to which the government deports immigrants accused of crimes (other than entering or remaining in the U.S. without authorization) often rises to prominence in the immigration debate. Since 2008, the share of deportation orders sought in immigration court due to criminal activity has fallen. As explained above, however, many immigrants who have been found guilty of aggravated felonies are deported without ever going to immigration court.

Notably, the data below only represent situations in which ICE cites criminal activity as a basis for deportation. For some immigrants with criminal histories, ICE may choose to cite other reasons in its pursuit of deportation. According to TRAC, ICE has stated that it “cannot reliably identify” the total number of cases in which the immigrant had a criminal history. As with the issue of deportation proceedings above, the available data are not equipped to answer all questions.

Figure 6. Deportation orders sought in immigration court based on alleged criminal activity, Jan. 2008 – Mar. 2012

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Source: TRAC. * Preliminary Counts.

A more detailed version of Figure 6 is available here.

Similarly, the number of criminal prosecutions from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and ICE referrals has fallen in recent years. The table below displays the number of criminal prosecutions over the previous 12 months.

Table 2. Trend in criminal prosecutions from referrals to CBP and ICE, Jan. 2009 – Aug. 2012 (previous 12 months)

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 11.38.49 AM

Source: TRAC.

In ICE detention centers, the majority of immigrants have a criminal conviction. Table 3 displays the top 10 most serious convictions for those with a criminal conviction, and the source table displays the most serious conviction for all those who were in in ICE detention centers as of October 2011.

Table 3. Most serious charge for ICE detainees by frequency, October 2011

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 11.40.49 AM

Source: TRAC.

Court Backlog

S. 744, the current immigration proposal, mandates the appointment of additional immigration judges. This could help clear the large and growing backlog in immigration courts. This backlog could be part of ICE’s motivation for bypassing immigration courts at a higher rate (presuming, as data suggest, that the agency is actually doing so).

Between 1998 and 2013, the backlog of cases in immigration courts increased by over 150 percent. The increase may be partly attributable to Operation Streamline, which began in began in December 2005 in the Del Rio Border Patrol Sector. The operation requires that “all prosecutable aliens, regardless of nationality, apprehended within the geographic boundaries be prosecuted.” Since that time, Border Patrol has initiated several similar operations across the southwest border, and the number of pending cases has nearly doubled.

Figure 7. Number of pending cases in immigration courts, FY 1998—2013

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Source: TRAC. FY 2013 figures as of April 2013.

During the same period, the average processing time for immigration courts increased by nearly 175 percent.

Figure 8. Immigration court processing time for all types of charges

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Source: TRAC. FY 2013 figures include only October through April.

An Incomplete Picture

As noted above, deportations and ICE funding have hit record numbers in recent years. On its face, this suggests that immigration enforcement has increased as well. However, court activity around deportations has fallen, and unauthorized immigrants who reach immigration court now stand a much better chance of being allowed to stay in the U.S.

Unfortunately, ICE has not released data that fully explain how these trends fit together. Data suggest that the Obama Administration’s use of immigration courts in deportation proceedings is declining. However, it is unclear how much of this is due to the deportation of previously-deported individuals, to the increased use of administrative proceedings, or to some other factors. In turn, this makes it difficult to determine how heavily ICE emphasizes the deportation of criminals. TRAC, which has endeavored to make these data public for years, has issued strongly-worded rebukes of the quality and quantity of data that ICE maintains and provides.

It is certain that the Obama Administration has deported unauthorized immigrants in record numbers, and that immigration courts have become much more likely to allow immigrants to stay in the U.S. The largest take away, though, may be that the available information makes interior enforcement difficult to assess.

About the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Immigration Task Force. Founded in 2007 by former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and George Mitchell, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) drives principled solutions through rigorous analysis, reasoned negotiation, and respectful dialogue. Like BPC’s other projects, the Immigration Task Force combines politically-balanced policymaking with strong, proactive advocacy and outreach. The Task Force is chaired by former Governors Haley Barbour and Ed Rendell, as well as former Secretaries Henry Cisneros and Condoleezza Rice. For more information, please visit www.bipartisanpolicy.org. This analysis originally appeared here.

Who Are the Opponents of Comprehensive Immigration Reform?

By Tom K. Wong, tomkwong@ucsd.edu, @twong002 

While members of the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) spent yesterday inside the Dirksen Senate Office Building marking up the bipartisan Senate “gang of 8’s” comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill, some Republican members of the House of Representatives gathered outside of the Capital Building to declare their opposition to reform efforts. These Representatives have been described as a “veritable all-star team of anti-‘amnesty’ activists.”

While the House has yet to formally take up debate on immigration reform, the group of 8 Representatives who made their opposition known yesterday – particularly with respect to a pathway to citizenship – provides an opportunity to evaluate the early predictions made related to support and opposition to CIR in the House.

The 8 Representatives who gathered yesterday in opposition to CIR are listed in Figure 1. The figure also plots the predicted probability of each of the representatives. As the figure shows, the representatives are correctly predicted as “solid no” votes. The predicted probabilities range from a low of .07, which means a 7% chance of voting yes on CIR to .24, which means a 24% chance of voting yes. The average predicted probability of voting yes on CIR for these 8 Representatives is .13, or only 13%.

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It is no special feat to predict that a Representative such as Steve King (IA-4), who has a long history of anti-immigrant voting and other antics, will vote no on CIR. But what this retrospective shows is that the group that assembled yesterday is not alone.

In looking at all of the Representatives with predicted probabilities of less than .13, the results indicate that there are 101 other Representatives who may join this “all star team of anti-‘amnesty’ activists.” Figure 2 plots the predicted probabilities for all of these Representatives. They are spread across 17 states with the largest concentrations in Texas and Florida. While the predicted probabilities in the figure reflect the assumptions of the statistical models, when viewed from a different perspective we see that there are 31 Representatives who share immigration voting records that mirror the “anti-‘amnesty’ gang” (they are represented by the orange dots).

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The road to CIR is a long one. And while the wheels are currently turning in the Senate we know that the road to final passage runs through the House. What remains to be seen is how many Representatives will join together in efforts to block CIR from passage – which makes it all the more interesting to see which Representatives will stand up to counter these efforts.

Tom K. Wong, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of political science at UC San Diego. He is an expert on immigration politics and policy. He is a research associate at CCIS and beginning in fall 2013 he will be Director of the International Migration Studies Program at UC San Diego.