Sunday, December 29, 2019

Top 10 Immigration Stories of the Decade




Many "best of the  decade" lists (see, e.g., TV shows; novels; movies) are appearing in newspapers and the blogosphere.  Here is a quick stab at the top ten immigration stories from 2010-2019.  My focus was on the stories on topics and issues that have had long term impacts on U.S. immigration law and policy. 

If readers think that I missed something, please post a comment.


1.  Topping our annual list of immigration news stories for consecutive years, President Donald J. Trump made immigration a signature issue of his successful 2016 presidential campaign and, as Presiden5t, took a series of bold (including many unprecedented) immigration measures, from the Muslim ban to the Return to Mexico policy. Trump unquestionably is the modern U.S. president who has pursued the most aggressive immigration enforcement measures.



2.  DACA:  In 2012, President Obama announced his innovative Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, which provided limited relief to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants brought to the United States as children.  Symbolizing the efforts to secure justice for immigrants, the DACA policy has been at the center of a resurgence of immigration activism.

In 2017, President Trump attempted to rescind DACA.  The Supreme Court is currently considering the lawfulness of the rescission.  Expect fireworks to follow whatever the ultimate outcome of the case, with a decision expected by the end of June 2020.

3.  Deportation Records:  Before DACA, the Obama administration removed record numbers (here and here) -- in the neighborhood of 400,000 a year from 2009-2012 -- of noncitizens from the United States. The removal records led some critics to refer to President Obama as the "Deporter-in-Chief."  A demonstrated commitment to immigration enforcement was thought to be a way to convince Republicans in Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. 

The end result:  mass removals and no immigration reform

4.  Arizona v. United States (2012):  During President Obama's first term, several states passed laws designed to facilitate immigration enforcement and encorage "self-deportation" by undocumented immigrants.  In its most significant immigration decision in years, the Supreme Court in Arizona v. United States invalidated three of four provisions of one of those laws, Arizona’s S.B. 1070, on federal preemption grounds.  The Court made clear that the U.S. government had exclusive authority to admit and remove noncitizens and that the states could not interfere with those functions.  Federal courts also invalidated significant portions of the immigration enforcement laws of Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina

5.  The Rise of Sanctuary Cities:  In response to the Trump administration aggressive immigration enforcement measures, a number of cities declared themselves to be "sanctuaries" for immigrants.  Sanctuary cities drew the ire of the Trump administration, which sought to strip these jurisdictions of federal funding

In an amazing turnaround from the days of the anti-immigrant milestone Proposition 187 in the 1990s, the California legislature declared itself to be a sanctuary state and refused to assist in federal immigration enforcement except as required by federal law.

6.  Family Separation Policy:  To deter Central Americans, including many women and children fleeing rampant gang and other violence, from coming to the United States, the Trump administration adopted a policy of separating parents and children in immigrant detention.  The family separation policy provoked mass protests and bipartisan resistance.  Pictures like the one above galvanized the nation in oppposition to the policy. 

Ultimately, President Trump ended family separation.  But his administration was slow to reunite families.  The family separation policy is often criticized by the 2020 Democratic candidates for President.



Photo courtesy of Don Roth

7. BREXIT:  The United Kingdom Exits the European Union

Brexit has had reverberations the world over.  With immigration and immigrants a major -- if not the primary -- concern,  voters in the United Kingdom in 2016 voted to leave the European Union.  Free migration within the EU had been one of the hallmarks of the regional arrangement.  The Brexit campaign was hotly contested but the aye votes carried the day

As it turned out, exiting the EU was easier said than done.  The British government continues to try to work out the details of leaving the EU.

8.  Central American MigrationFleeing widespread and uncontrolled violence in their home countries, Central American asylum seekers continued to come to the United States over the decade.   President Obama responded with, among other things, family detention.  President Trump responded by deriding the "caravan", implementing a Return to Mexico policy, mass detention, narrowing asylum eligibility, family separation, and more.


9.  The Failure of Comprehensive Immigration Reform:  The last truly comprehensive immigration reform proposal failed in Congress in 2013.  Immigration reform and the DREAM Act have been discussed in Congress for more than a decade.  A majority of Americans believe that there are major deficiencies in the U.S. immigration laws.  Still, the nation awaits Congress pass immigration reform.



Pew Research Center

10.  The Stability of the Undocumented Immigrant Population in the United States:  Despite increased removal efforts and immigration enforcement,  a relatively stable population of about 10-11 million undocumented immigrants have lived in the United States from 2010-19.  Although it has declined a bit and the composition has changed somewhat over time, the nation has had millions of undocumented residents for many years.


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