The number of people who were apprehended by or surrendered to federal immigration officials on the U.S.-Mexico border dipped by more than 20 percent last month, the Department of Homeland Security announced Monday. After totalling 82,055 apprehensions in July, the agency reported an August total of about 64,000 apprehensions — a decrease of 22%.
The August total includes about 50,700 apprehensions by U.S. Border Patrol agents between the official ports of entry and about 13,300 “inadmissables” who presented themselves at a port of entry but were deemed inadmissible by Customs and Border Protection officers.
It’s the third straight monthly decline and the lowest since January’s total of about 58,300. The August total is also less than half of this year’s peak in May, when more than 144,000 people were apprehended at the border.
Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan said the dip is a direct result of President Trump’s immigration policies and not traditional seasonal slowdowns caused by the summer heat. Those policies include the Migrant Protection Protocols, which require migrants to wait in Mexico for their immigration hearings, and forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico before they are allowed to apply.
Moran said during a news conference Monday that seasonal slowdowns usually account for an 8 percent dip.
“If you look from June to July, we saw those numbers dropby 40 percent,” he said. “Last year from July to August, the numbers actually went up 16 percent. This is the season when they start going up. And this year, down 23 percent. It’s what this president and this administration is doing, it has nothing to do with seasonal trends.”
The declines can also be partially attributed to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s deployment of federal troops to that country’s southern border with Guatemala to help slow the flow of migrants from Central America traveling north. That move came after Trump threatened to impose tariffs of up to 25% on Mexican imports.
Although the numbers have dipped in recent months, border agents have already apprehended thousands more migrants this fiscal year than during all of the 2018 fiscal year. The federal government’s fiscal year runs from October to September.
Texas continues to be the busiest crossing point for migrants, and the two largest categories of unauthorized crossers continue to be family units and unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in the United States.
From October to August, more than 205,000 family units were apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley sector, which covers South Texas — a 277% increase over the same period in 2018. About 33,100 unaccompanied minors have also been apprehended in the sector so far this year, compared with 21,556 during 2018 – a 54% increase.
Agents in the El Paso sector, which includes New Mexico, apprehended about 129,400 family units from October to August of the current fiscal year, along with 15,800 unaccompanied minors. That’s an increase of about 1,243% and 221%, respectively.
As the White House’s policy to separate immigrant parents from their children at the border continues to fan the flames of the national immigration debate, attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday that the case of a woman detained in El Paso could be the catalyst for change.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last month his office was imposing a “zero tolerance” policy on people who enter the country illegally. The policy means that parents caught with their children will go to a detention facility while their children are placed elsewhere. He doubled down on that pledge this month in separate speeches.
“If you’re smuggling a child, then we’re going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law,” he said. “If you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally. It’s not our fault that somebody does that.”
Lee Gelernt, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said it’s not clear how many families have been affected since the policy was announced because “only the government” knows. But he said his case against the federal government would reverse that policy if a federal district judge in California grants a preliminary injunction against the practice.
The Texas case involves a Brazilian referred to only as “Ms. C” in court documents. She arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border last summer and was approached by a federal border agent within seconds, court documents state. She explained she was applying for asylum, passed a credible fear interview, but was subsequently placed in custody after being prosecuted for illegal entry. Her minor son was sent to a facility for unaccompanied children in Chicago. She completed her 25-day criminal misdemeanor sentence in September and was sent to an immigration detention facility in El Paso, the filing states.
“Once she got out of jail, they could have reunited [her and her son], but she spent six months in an ICE detention center and was never reunited her with her son,” Gelernt said. “She’s now been out for around six weeks, they still haven’t reunited her with her son.”
The case was filedin February in San Diego because the original plaintiff in the case is a Congolese woman who was separated from her daughter. Gelernt said the case is now a class-action lawsuit that seeks to end the administration’s policy and immediately reunite the separated children with their parents. It was argued on May 4, and it’s unclear when a decision will be issued.
During a news conference Wednesday at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in Central El Paso, Linda Rivas, the executive director and managing attorney of the center, said the recent fervor over the family separation proves what immigration attorneys in El Paso have known since last year: West Texas was host to the Trump Administration’s pilot program on ramped-up immigration enforcement.
“We have known that this has been going on regularly for some time under the Trump administration,” she said. “This was the training ground, this is where they started to separate families.”
The court documents back up her point. Though the policy was officially announced in April, Ms. C’s case goes back to September of last year.
Rivas also said the recent news about the estimated 1,500 unaccompanied children that were deemed “lost” by federal officials is a distraction that takes attention away from the issue of family separation. The New York Times was the first to report last month that the Department of Health and Human Services has lost track of about 1,500 unaccompanied immigrant minors had been placed with sponsors.
It was subsequently reported that the children were not likely lost, but instead their sponsors may not have responded to phone calls from government officials tasked with keeping tabs on the children. The children were also unaccompanied minors, which means they aren’t part of the group of children who have been separated from their parents at the border.
“It’s inaccurate, and I think it was a distraction. Whoever it came from, it is distracting from the real issues,” she said.
DALLAS – A decision by the Trump Administration last week is keeping hope alive for immigrants brought to Texas and the rest of the U.S. as children. But the news isn’t as good for their parents.
The Department of Homeland Security said it has rescinded the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program, but is keeping the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – at least for now. This means about 750,000 young people, often known as Dreamers, will not be targeted for deportation – but many of their parents are now at risk.
Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel at the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, said he predicts these decisions will divide families.
“I would have expected an administration that believes in family to accompany this announcement with some acknowledgement of the need to protect the parents, family members of United States citizen kids,” Saenz said. “We did not get that.”
President Barack Obama created the DACA and DAPA programs in 2014. A group of states, led by Texas, challenged them in court. After a 4-4 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, DAPA never went into effect.
President Donald Trump promised during his campaign to rescind all the Obama immigration orders, but since his election, he has said he might not roll back DACA.
Saenz said immigrants registered under the programs have been in legal limbo since the split court ruling. Now parents are left with no protections while their children are still covered by DACA, but no one seems to know for how long.
“But I think the demonstrated unpredictability means that while this is, as of today, an indication that they won’t be changing the DACA initiative,” he said, “that could change tomorrow, next month, six months from now,”
Nationwide, there are about 750,000 children of immigrants registered in the DACA program. DAPA would have applied to as many as 4 million immigrants, but because of the stalemate in the courts, the program was never fully implemented.
One of the country’s largest civil rights groups is cautioning against traveling to Texas after Gov. Greg Abbott signed what critics have called the most extreme state-based immigration bill in history.
Though the bill, Senate Bill 4, doesn’t take effect until Sept. 1, the American Civil Liberties Union said in its announcement that it “is concerned that some law enforcement officers may begin to treat residents and travelers unfairly now.”
The bill allows peace officers to question the immigration status of people they legally detain or arrest, and also punishes department heads and elected officials who don’t cooperate with federal immigration agents. Abbott and other supporters of the bill insist it’s needed to enforce the rule of law and deter people who are already in the country illegally from committing more crimes.
Many law enforcement agencies and faith-based organizations have said the law opens up the state to legalized racial profiling and could place U.S. citizens in the crosshairs of local police who want to enforce immigration law.
“The ACLU’s goal is to protect all Texans and all people traveling through Texas — regardless of their immigration status — from illegal harassment by law enforcement,” Lorella Praeli, the ACLU’s director of immigration policy and campaigns said in a statement. “Texas is a state with deep Mexican roots and home to immigrants from all walks of life. Many of us fit the racial profile that the police in Texas will use to enforce Trump’s draconian deportation force.”
Between 2008 and 2012, the ACLU said, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement requested local jails to hold 834 U.S. citizens, including some who spent additional days in jail because of the error.
After the national civil rights organization issued its travel advisory Tuesday morning, a state business group said they feared it could be the firstof more sustained warnings — or even boycotts — that could adversely affect the state’s economy.
“I think what this bill brings with it is the perception that Texas’s welcome mat comes with qualifiers,” said Cathy Stoebner DeWitt, vice president of governmental affairs for the Texas Association of Business. “And businesses looking to come to Texas look at things like that. So it causes us great concern.”
The ACLU said more than a dozen of its state affiliates have issued their own travel advisories against Texas including California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Disclosure: The Texas Association of Business has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.
The Texas Senate on Wednesday voted 20-11 to accept the House’s version of Senate bill 4, legislation that would ban “sanctuary” jurisdictions in Texas and allow police to inquire about the immigration status of people they lawfully detain.
The bill now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott, who declared the legislation an “emergency item” in the early days of the legislative session, and is widely expected to sign it.
The legislation makes sheriffs, constables, police chiefs and other local leaders subject to a Class A misdemeanor if they don’t cooperate with federal authorities and honor requests from immigration agents to hold noncitizen inmates subject to deportation. It also provides civil penalties for entities in violation of the provision that begin at $1,000 for a first offense and climb to as high as $25,500 for each subsequent infraction. The bill also applies to public colleges.
But the final version also includes a controversial House amendment that allows police officers to question a person’s immigration status during a detainment, as opposed to being limited to a lawful arrest. Democrats and immigrant rights groups argue this makes the bill “show-me-your-papers”-type legislation that will allow police to inquire about a person’s immigration status during the most routine exchanges, including traffic stops.
Before Wednesday’s vote, some lawmakers were still hopeful the bill would go to a conference committee where lawmakers from both chambers could strip the amendment from the bill. But during a floor debate Wednesday before the measure was approved by the Senate, the bill’s author, state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, said that the bill doesn’t require that officers ask a person’s immigration status. However the language does leave the door wide open for officers to make such inquiries if they feel the need during routine stops.
“We certainly don’t want ‘walking while brown’ to lead to reasonable suspicion,” said state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston. “It will happen. And in some parts of my district, it already is happening.”
The amendment to allow local police to ask about immigration status during a detainment was added during a 16-hour House debate by Tyler Republican Matt Schaefer, who told the Tribune last week that he had been willing to pull the proposal if Democrats had agreed to limit the debate of the bill on the House floor. But whatever deal was allegedly in the works fell through and Democrats could only sit and watch as the amped up version of the bill passed the lower chamber.
Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have said the bill is about rule of law and making sure that criminals who are also in the country illegally should be deported before they are able to commit more crimes in this country.
Patrick praised the Senate’s move late Wednesday in a news release, saying, “I have been working to end sanctuary cities in Texas since my days as a state senator. This legislation will eliminate a substantial incentive for illegal immigration and help make Texas communities safer.”
But several law enforcement leaders have said the bill will erode the public’s trust.
“Officers would start inquiring about the immigration status of every person they come in contact with, or worse, inquire about the immigration status of people based on their appearance,” David Pughes, the interim chief of police for Dallas and Art Acevedo, chief of police for Houston, wrote in an op-ed for the Dallas Morning News last week. “This will lead to distrust of police and less cooperation from members of the community. And it will foster the belief that people cannot seek assistance from police for fear of being subjected to an immigration status investigation.”
Abbott’s signature on the bill will cap his quest to ban “sanctuary” cities that made national headlines after Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez announced in January she would limit her jail’s cooperation with Immigration and Customs and Enforcement. Hernandez later amended her policy but not before Abbott withheld state grant funds from the county.
It’s unclear however, if Abbott’s signature on the bill will be the end of the conversation. Several lawmakers have said a lawsuit to stop the implementation of SB 4 is very likely and cite several reasons, including legal questions surrounding the federal preemption of immigration laws and whether ICE detainers are voluntary.
Before the final vote, Perry seemed to acknowledge as much.
“We will let the court systems figure this out,” he told state Sen. Jose Menendez during a lengthy back-and-forth about probable cause.
More than 90 percent of Texans believe that local police should be allowed to ask about immigration status if a person is arrested for a crime, according to the results of a poll released Tuesday.
Only about half of Texans oppose “sanctuary” policies in which law enforcement or other local authorities don’t report undocumented immigrants to federal authorities.
But more than 90 percent of Texans believe that local police should be allowed to ask about immigration status if a person is arrested for a crime, according to the results of a poll on immigration conducted by the Texas Lyceum this month.
The poll was the nonprofit leadership group’s first deep dive into the issue of immigration in its 11-year polling history. The results were released as border security and state-based immigration efforts continue to be key and divisive issues for Texas lawmakers heading into the final six weeks of the current biennial legislative session.
The poll of 1,000 Texans was conducted from April 3 to April 9 and also focused on President Trump’s promised border wall and whether it should be up to employers to check the immigration status of the people they hire. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points and was overseen by University of Texas at Austin professor Daron Shaw and Joshua Blank, the manager of polling and research at the Texas Politics Project at UT. (Both Shaw and Blank have also worked on the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.)
The pollsters found that 62 percent of Texans said immigration helps the United States more than it hurts the country. That’s an increase from 2016, when 54 percent of the respondents said they viewed immigration was more beneficial than harmful.
The pollsters defined “sanctuary” entities as those in which “[when] local police or city government employees learn that someone is in the country illegally, they do not automatically turn that person over to federal immigration enforcement officers.”
Forty-five percent of the respondents supported sanctuary policies, while 49 percent opposed them. At the same time, 93 percent of all respondents said local police should be able to inquire into a person’s immigration status when arrested for a crime.
The results suggest most Texans would likely support “sanctuary” legislation currently moving through the Texas House, which would limits inquiries into immigration status from local law enforcement to people who have already been arrested.
Proposed legislation that passed the Senate earlier this year permits local police to ask about immigration status if a person is either arrested or detained by law enforcement for other reasons.
The Lyceum poll found deeper divisions among Texans when asked if inquiries by law enforcement into immigration status should be allowed for people who aren’t arrested. Only 44 percent agree that police should check a person’s status during a traffic stop, while 41 percent agreed that immigration status should be checked when a person is reporting a crime. Only 39 percent said that status should be checked when the police believe that a person is a witness to a crime or could provide information.
Opponents of more broad-based inquiries argue that the expanded authority would create a chilling effect that would lead to the public cooperating less with law enforcement. When broken down by party lines, 99 percent of Republicans think immigration status should be checked when a person is arrested for a crime, while 68 percent think it should be checked during a routine traffic stop. A slight majority, 53 percent, agree that status should be checked when a person is reporting a crime or is a witness.
While 88 percent of Democrats think immigration inquires should be made when a person is arrested, only 28 percent think it should be checked during a traffic stop. Only 30 percent think it should be checked when a person is reporting a crime or is a witness to one.
The poll also delved into how much the state should be spending onborder security. In 2015, the Texas Legislature approved a record $800 million border security budget.
Half of the respondents were asked if the state should stay the current course with President Trump in the White House, while the other half was asked about state expenditures with Republicans in charge of the U.S. Congress. Under both conditions, most of the respondents with an opinion on the issue – 45 percent of those questioned about Trump and 41 percent questioned about Congress – agreed the state should keep spending largely on the border.
“This indicates that, overall, Texans are expressing a greater expectation that the President will deliver on border security and/or immigration enforcement than Republicans in Congress, but there is no outcry to decrease the amount of money Texas spends securing its borders,” poll supervisors wrote in their summary.
When asked about President Trump’s plan to build a wall on the southern border, only about a third, or 35 percent, favored a barrier separating Texas from Mexico. Sixty-one percent opposed the project. The numbers are almost identical to the poll’s results from 2016, when 35 percent favored building the wall and 59 percent opposed such a project. This year, however, the percentage of respondents who identified as Hispanic that supported construction of the wall rose from 18 percent in 2016 to 25 percent.
The survey also found that nearly two-thirds of respondents, or 63 percent, strongly supported a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants after a long waiting period if the applicants paid taxes and a penalty, passed a criminal background check and learned English. Twenty-seven of the respondents somewhat supported that idea, while 4 percent somewhat opposed and 5 percent strongly opposed.
Nearly three-fourths of Texans agreed that employers should check the immigration status of prospective employees and favored harsh penalties and fines for people who knowingly hire unauthorized immigrants. Forty-nine percent of the respondents strongly supported those measures, while 23 percent somewhat supported them. Only 23 percent opposed placing the responsibility on employers and making them subject to fines and punishment.
On Wednesday, the Texas Lyceum will release poll results on how Texans view President Trump, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz‘s re-election prospects against a possible Democratic opponent.
Disclosure: The Texas Lyceum and the University of Texas at Austin have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.
A decision last month by a federal judge in Illinois undercutting a major tool the federal government uses to deport criminal immigrants could ripple across the country, changing how local jails hold people thought to be in the country illegally.
On September 30, U.S. District Judge John Z. Lee ruled that the Department of Homeland Security’s use of detainers — formal requests from federal immigration authorities for a local jail to hold non-citizen inmates — exceeds its legal authority.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement generally issues the requests when it thinks someone being held on local or state charges might also be deportable for violating the country’s immigration law. When it receives a detainer on one of its inmates, a local jail typically holds that person beyond the time it ordinarily would, usually 48 hours, giving federal authorities a chance to come get them.
Lee ruled that the detainers were “void” because “immigration detainers issued under ICE’s detention program seek to detain subjects without a warrant — even in the absence of a determination by ICE that the subjects are likely to escape before a warrant can be obtained.”
Lee’s decision applies to Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Wisconsin and some detainers issued in about two dozen more states, according to the National Immigrant Justice Center. But the ruling’s impact could expand if it is upheld by appellate courts or spurs copycat lawsuits in other states.
Jackie Watson, an Austin-based immigration attorney and immediate past chair of the Texas chapter of American Immigration Lawyers Association, said ICE can still request detainers under Lee’s ruling but that it needs to show probable cause and request a warrant.
Though the ruling is narrow in scope, it could prompt Texans to sue in pursuit of a similar outcome, she said.
“It certainly gives jurisdictions that may be hesitant to cooperate with ICE detainers some legal backing if they say, “Look, we don’t want the liability of holding people for you if federal courts are going to find this unconstitutional,’” she said.
The case was brought by Jose Jimenez Moreno, a U.S. citizen from Illinois, and Maria Jose Lopez, a lawful permanent resident in Florida. Both were being held on unrelated criminal charges when ICE placed detainers on them.
Asked about the ruling and its possible repercussions, for ICE offices in Texas, a spokesperson for the agency field office in San Antonio said it is “reviewing the court ruling to determine its course of action.”
Lee’s decision comes at a time when Dallas and Travis counties have been at the center of controversy, with Republican lawmakers questioning whether the jails in those jurisdictions honor, or will continue to honor, immigration detainer requests.
As part of her campaign for Travis County Sheriff, Constable Sally Hernandez has promised to remove ICE agents from the jail, a position that has drawn criticism from Joe Martinez, her Republican opponent, and the current sheriff, Democrat Greg Hamilton.
Activists in Travis County have for years urged the county to end its program of honoring ICE detainers. In 2014, more than 100 attorneys and professors warned local lawmakers that continued participation in the program could expose the county to legal liabilities.
Late last year Gov. Greg Abbott rebuked Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez after she said she works with ICE on a case-by-case basis. Valdez later told lawmakers that she hadn’t declined any detainers and that her comments were taken out of context.
Texas’ jails have a long history of cooperating with ICE when the agency requests that an immigrant be held in order to cross check their
immigration status. A Texas Tribune analysis of ICE data found that between January 2014 and September 2015, jails declined to honor the requests 146 times. That’s less than 1 percent of the 18,646 detainers declined across the country during the same time frame.
Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have still pledged to pass legislation that eliminates “sanctuary cities” — the common term for local governments that refuse to cooperate with immigration agents or enforce immigration laws. But a ruling similar to Lee’s applied Texas could make the issue moot.
“The whole pivot point for them on sanctuary cities is cooperation with ICE detainers, period,” Watsonsaid. “And if ICE detainers are unconstitutional, you’re going to be ordering cities to engage in unconstitutional acts.”
Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which takes a hard line on illegal immigration and seeks to limit legal immigration, blasted the ruling as a further erosion of the country’s immigration laws.
“Now, even in cases where aliens are incarcerated and they’re serving time, these holds are being attacked,” he said. “In all areas of federal and state law enforcement cooperation, these agencies are expected by taxpayers and the public to work together. And whether it’s a binding legal requirement or, as a matter of courtesy, a 24-hour, 48-hour civil immigration hold is a long term practice for noncitizens.”
Watson said the federal government can appeal Lee’s ruling, and that could pave the way for the U.S. Supreme Court to finally settle the matter.
Stein didn’t want to predict what the high court might do but said in his opinion it’s clear that ICE has the ability to continue the current immigration practices.
“It doesn’t say there has to be any judicial interaction because ICE is carrying out civil law enforcement,” he said. But he added that, if necessary, Congress could always pass legislation to make certain ICE retains the authority.
“The Supreme Court always has the right to find new constitutional rights depending on what it had for dinner the night before,” he said. “But if you assume that the basic principle that immigration enforcement is a civil matter and that Congress retains the authority to stipulate what the procedural requirement’s are, this ought to be a slam dunk.”
Read more of the Tribune’s related coverage:
More than 18,000 times over the last two years, local jails across the country — including almost three dozen in Texas — failed to hand over deportable immigrants to federal authorities.
With the likely election of a new Democratic sheriff in November, Austin is poised to become the first true “sanctuary city” in GOP-ruled Texas if Travis County stops cooperating with federal immigration policies.