During the past week, Multi-American has been counting down the biggest and most influential immigration stories of 2011. That's not to say there were only five: It's been a major year for stories related to the immigration debate, especially as the battleground has shifted to the states, record deportations have continued, and the Obama administration's expansion of federal-local partnerships such as the Secure Communities fingerprint sharing program continues to draw controversy.
Stories that didn't make the list are also worth mentioning, among them the passage of state tuition-aid bills for undocumented students like the California Dream Act and the continued steep drop in illegal border crossings - even as illegal immigration remains a popular talking point for candidates seeking the presidency in 2012. Here are M-A's choices for top stories of the year.
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images
A man is prepared for a deportation flight bound for San Salvador in Mesa, Arizona, December 2010
In fiscal year 2011, the Obama administration broke its own deportation record for the second straight year, deporting close to 400,000 people in the year that ended last Sept. 30.
It wouldn't be a stretch to say that news of another record-breaking year for removals was pretty much expected, with the continued expansion of federal immigration enforcement programs like Secure Communities and 287(g), both of which have fed the deportation pipeline in recent years with a steady flow of cases stemming from local law enforcement.
The number of deportations has crept upward steadily for years now. According to a federal chart, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has removed these many people in recent years:
FY 2010 = 392,862
FY 2009 = 389,834
FY 2008 = 369,221
FY 2007 = 291,060
Photo by Corey Moore/KPCC
Anti-Secure Communities protesters in Los Angeles, August 15, 2011
The controversy over the federal immigration enforcement program known as Secure Communitieshas been brewing since not long after it was first implemented 2008, during the waning days of the Bush administration. But after a heated back-and-forth between state, local and federal officials over the program as some jurisdictions attempted to withdraw - only to be told they couldn't - the controversy came to a head this year.
First, in a nutshell, how Secure Communities works: When state or local authorities book someone into a local jail, the person's fingerprints are electronically submitted to the FBI. These fingerprints are then sent to the Department of Homeland Security, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents check them against an immigration records database to determine if the person is deportable (legal residents are also subject to deportation if they have committed certain offenses). The person is then held for deportation by ICE.
Art by José Luís Agapito/Flickr (Creative Commons)
A new report examining Secure Communities, the immigration enforcement program partly responsible for the Obama administration's record number of deportations, reveals some of the demographics, immigration status, and other key details about who has been arrested and deported under the program since it began rolling out in 2008.
Secure Communities allows for the fingerprints of people booked into local jails to be shared with immigration officials, who are notified when prints match immigration records. The idea is to net undocumented immigrants and deportable legal residents with criminal records, a stated goal of the Obama administration.
But as noted in the report by the UC Berkeley Law School, U.S. citizens are affected by the program in more ways than one might think. Citizens have been arrested, and to a much larger degree, have had family members deported. According to the report, nearly 40 percent of the people arrested by immigration authorities under Secure Communities have been the spouses or parents of U.S. citizens.
Photo by olongapowoodcraft/Flickr (Creative Commons)
Federal deportation numbers are out for fiscal year 2011, which ended Sept. 30.
And once again, the Obama administration is announcing that a record number of people have been deported during the past year, surpassing the record that was set during fiscal year 2010.
From the news release from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement:
Overall, in FY 2011 ICE's Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations removed 396,906 individuals — the largest number in the agency's history.
Of these, nearly 55 percent or 216,698 of the people removed were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors — an 89 percent increase in the removal of criminals since FY 2008. This includes 1,119 aliens convicted of homicide; 5,848 aliens convicted of sexual offenses; 44,653 aliens convicted of drug related crimes; and 35,927 aliens convicted of driving under the influence.
ICE achieved similar results with regard to other categories prioritized for removal. Ninety percent of all ICE's removals fell into a priority category and more than two-thirds of the other removals in 2011 were either recent border crossers or repeat immigration violators.