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 TK/Flickr (Creative Commons)
A year ago, when Multi-American was counting down the top five immigration stories of 2010, topping the list with Arizona's game-changing SB 1070 was a no-brainer. Not necessarily because news of the 2010 anti-illegal immigration law dominated immigration coverage last year, but because of the lasting impact the law was bound to have on other states. I wrote then:
What continues to make SB 1070 such an important story are its ramifications beyond Arizona, which will be playing out in the years to come. Even with some of its provisions still hung up in appeals court by the pending federal challenge, SB 1070 has emboldened conservative state legislators around the country to draft their own versions of the law, some just as strict or more so than the original.
A year later, SB 1070-inspired immigration enforcement bills have made their way through statehouses around the country. Similarly strict laws have taken effect in states like Alabama, Georgia, Utah, Indiana and South Carolina.
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.
Photo by Victoria Bernal/Flickr (Creative Commons)
The political battle over birthright citizenship exploded almost a year ago, when a series of states began introducing bills seeking to cut off the children born to undocumented immigrants from automatic U.S. citizenship.
The United States, like most countries in the Americas but unlike many European nations, has had a longstanding practice of jus soli citizenship, meaning citizenship is granted to those born on U.S. soil (jus soli is Latin for "right of the soil). Other nations, such as Germany, abide by versions of jus sanguinis (Latin for “right of blood”) citizenship, which there is granted only to children of citizens and/or legal residents.
The notion of barring the children of undocumented immigrants from receiving U.S. citizenship had long lingered on the more extreme fringes of the immigration restriction lobby. But in the anything-is-possible climate that followed the approval of Arizona's stringent SB 1070 last year, a group of like-minded state legislators banded together and, with the aid of attorneys who worked on SB 1070, created one-size-fits-all model state legislation that would distinguish between babies born to undocumented immigrants and other children when issuing state birth certificates.