Immigration in 2011 – Part 5 of 10, Punitive Enforcement Approaches

Fifth part of our ten part series examining the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s (AILA) publication of “What to Watch Out for in Immigration in 2011.”

Topic #5: Punitive Enforcement Approaches

In the 112th Congress violations of immigration laws are expected to have stricter penalties and further legislation is likely to be proposed in connection to the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) that was passed in 1996.

These proposed radical enforcements include mass deportation of any individual in the US illegally, deportation for lawful permanent residents who commit even minor crimes, deportation for visitors who stay past the visa expiration date as well as punishment for individuals who use fake passports and visas. Additionally, many lawmakers also wish to expedite hearings and take away individuals legal right to a fair trial. Although consequences are needed for those individuals who break the law, the legislation proposed is not proportionate to the crimes and would be difficult to implement.

Both the Bush and Obama administration worked to enforce immigration law effectively during fiscal year 2010 through the Emergency Border Security Supplemental Appropriations Act as well as increased border security agents and surveillance technology.

Those who favor a more stricter immigration policy feel more officers on the border is one of the only ways to limit the number of illegal immigrants in the US. However opponents, both democrats and republicans alike, feel the mass deportation approach is too unrealistic. Additionally, according to the Center for American Progress deporting all the undocumented workers in the US over five years would cost approximately $41.2 billion each year. The deportation of all illegal immigrants who currently live in the U.S. would also tremendously harm the U.S. economy.

In 2005, the House passed legislation that would have made it a criminal offense for someone to be in the U.S. while on an invalid visa or without green card; currently this is only a violation of civil immigration laws. Many have raised their concerns over this legislation because the conditions of a visa can easily be violated without it being criminal, for example, a college student not taking enough credits under their visa. Passing the legislation would also push the illegal immigrants further away from society and authorities out of fear for deportation. Not to mention the fact that the bill would create an increase in immigration cases in the court system, currently overwhelmed with present cases.

We desperately need an answer; however, deporting our entire illegal immigrant community is not the best nor most economical approach. If you have any ideas on how best to fix our broken immigration system, we welcome your comments and suggestions…