Why Trump’s immigration bonds proposal won’t work – POLITICO

The United States is — by far — one of the most heavily visited countries in the world. In 2018, nearly 80 million people visited the U.S., pumping over $1 trillion into its economy. Most business travelers and tourists are allowed to stay anywhere from 90 days to six months before returning home. While the vast majority do just that, a few never actually leave.

They become “overstayers,” and although it’s a tiny percentage of visa-holders — less than 2 percent —the numbers add up pretty quickly. According to the Department of Homeland Security, more than 700,000 people overstayed their visas last year. While many eventually leave, the aggregate numbers add up: It’s estimated that half of the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are visa overstayers. They didn’t cross the border illegally; they arrived legally but then just did not go home when they were supposed to.

Overstayers don’t get nearly the attention that illegal border-crossers do, but they amount to such a big chunk of the undocumented- immigrant population that they shouldn’t be ignored in the immigration debate. President Donald Trump has a plan for them: He announced a crackdown on tourists and business travelers from countries with high overstay rates.

This administration is the first one in recent memory that has taken up the visa compliance issue intentionally and seriously, and in principle, this focus should be welcomed by consular officers serving at our embassies and consulates overseas. But one proposal the president has asked the State Department to adopt — using “admission bonds” to induce better visa compliance — is problematic. They are resource-intensive and cumbersome — plus, experience shows they don’t work.

The bonds work a little bit like bail: A traveler arriving from a specified country would have to post money, which is then held by the government or a third party. When the traveler leaves the U.S., the bond would be canceled and the collateral returned.

If the U.S. were to adopt an admission bond, it would likely apply to only some travelers.
Visitors from countries with historically low overstay rates (such as France, Germany and Japan), use an online application called the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). For citizens of other countries (such as Mexico, India and the Philippines) and for those refused approval through ESTA, a visa is required, which includes an interview with a U.S. consular officer at one of our embassies or consulates worldwide.

Admission bonds would presumably come into play after the visa application. In theory, it sounds pretty simple: If requested, a traveler (or a sponsor) puts up money for entry into the U.S. and gets it back when they leave. If the bondholder is the U.S. government, then the feds would keep the money and be on the hook for finding the absconder through their regular enforcement mechanisms. It’s less clear how it would work with a third-party bondholder; if the bondholder is a surety company that forks over the money to Uncle Sam on behalf of the traveler, then the firm would be out that money and have the incentive to find the absconder somehow or seize other assets or collateral. Either way, the U.S. government would keep the cash.

The problem is, there’s already a track record for this idea, and it’s not especially successful, having little effect on visa compliance.

Several countries around the world with a high attraction to immigrants have put bond programs in place that haven’t solved their overstay problems. The Gulf states, with their huge reliance on foreign labor, employ the use of a controversial third-party bond for their guest workers. The United Arab Emirates would appear to be an ideal state for such a system: It has a vast immigrant workforce, strict immigration policies and a highly developed surveillance system employing the latest in biometric technologies. However, occasional government amnesties reveal that tens of thousands of workers manage to evade the system and work in the shadows — bond or no bond. While Singapore is frequently touted as a model state that has successfully integrated foreign workers (also using a bond system), differences abound: It’s a small island country (about the size of the greater D.C. area) and illegal employers are subject to significant penalties. Its draconian punishment system may also be a factor. Germany requires a “letter of commitment” from sponsors to vouch for certain foreign visitors. No hard data on its efficacy exists but, judging from the current immigration debates in Germany as well as anecdotal information, the German government seems to have the same challenges with enforcement that we do.

As it happens, current U.S. regulations already permit the use of such bonds — and skepticism about their effectiveness is actually built into the code. State Department policy already allows consular officers to require visa applicants to post a bond with DHS to ensure their departure. But the same policy notes that bonds should “rarely, if ever, be used” because “possible forfeiture of a bond is little deterrence, and sometimes might be cheaper than other means of illegal entry.” The regulations also note that the mechanics of posting a bond are tedious, DHS offices may not be equipped to accept the bonds and in some countries, they could be confused with a bribe. It’s not clear whether or how the Trump administration might change the existing regulation.

Ultimately, experience shows that for many visitors, no price is too high for a chance to come to the U.S. Determined immigrants would happily write off the money as a loss, confident in earning it back and more, for a shot at working in the States. Likewise, family members and unscrupulous employers are hardly deterred by upfront financial costs. Criminal immigration gangs could find themselves with another way to enhance their revenue streams. Immigrant smugglers could exploit any bond scheme to sponsor victims, only to have them work off their bond under indentured servitude. Visa applicants have been known to pay smugglers tens of thousands of dollars to receive a tourist visa — far more than the U.S. government is likely to demand in a bond.

Additionally, strict enforcement of such a program would have to overcome the usual hurdles: cumbersome processes, legal challenges and limited resources. For instance, in spite of the elaborate registration system for international students — introduced in the aftermath of 9/11 — overstay rates for students remain significantly higher than those for tourists and business travelers. The elaborate online apparatus appears to keep track of law-abiders but loses track of absconders.

As someone who’s worked in multiple high-volume visa posts, I know that consular officers already have a powerful tool to make decisions about visitor visa applicants: the Immigration and Nationality Act. Visa applicants are routinely refused under Section 214(b) of the law, which requires visa applicants to prove that they do not intend to be immigrants. If a consular officer thinks an applicant is unlikely to return home, they must refuse the visa application. In contrast, an admission bond may have a counterproductive result. It may instead give some officers a reason to give some applicants the benefit of the doubt, tempting them to outsource or hedge decisions based on the false hope that a financial consequence might improve compliance.

At our busiest visa sections, officers make hundreds of visa decisions every week. Interagency information sharing helps officers to quickly home in on known security issues. But beyond that, it becomes a judgment call. As every consular officer knows, each visa decision is a national security decision, and it’s not one we take lightly. Few things cause more aggravation and dismay to a consular officer than the visa applicant that gets away. And sometimes the overstayers aren’t who you think, not the most poor or desperate but sometimes the middle class or well-to-do with aspirations for more.

A better way to address the question of visa overstays might be to drill down and see why visa issuances in certain countries result in higher overstay rates than others. Are there pressures stemming from certain bilateral relationships? Do presidential orders, such as President Barack Obama’s now rescinded order to reduce visa wait times, send a subtle message to officers to approve more visas? Would higher denial rates cause an outcry from some foreign countries and/or members of Congress?

Finally, it’s worth keeping in mind that the current system is working the vast majority of the time —a 2 percent overstay rate means that consular officers and immigration agents are making the correct calls 98 percent of the time. An admission bond system would only further complicate the process for the law-abiding 98 percent while having little impact on the 2 percent who break the rules. The best way to help consular officers do even better is to provide them additional data and analysis to make better informed decisions.

Efforts to address visa overstayers are as important as what’s happening at our land borders. With immigration reform at a standstill, we need to give the administration’s proposals a fair hearing. But let’s not get distracted by initiatives — like admission bonds — that will ultimately result in little real progress.

Martin L. Oppus, a foreign service officer with the State Department, is a national security affairs fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has served as a consular officer in the Philippines, Mexico, Vietnam and India. His views are his own and do not represent those of the State Department.

Democrats say no one is above the law — except on immigration – The Washington Post

We have heard a lot about the importance of the rule of law from Democrats lately. During special counsel Robert S. Muller III’s investigation of President Trump, Democrats in Congress delivered a clear and unified message.

“No one is above the law, especially the president of the United States,” declared House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “Donald Trump is the most corrupt president in our lifetime. … No one is above the law. Not even the president,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). “Everyone should be held accountable. And the president is not above the law,” said Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif). Republicans “are basically saying that in America one man is above the law and that’s not a fact,” said Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.). “No one is above the law [and] everybody ought to be held accountable,” said South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

No one, that is, except illegal immigrants.—

Fast-forward to this past weekend, when the Trump administration announced that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers would soon begin enforcement actions to remove illegal immigrants who have been issued final deportation orders by a federal judge. Those same Democrats and the rest of their party delivered a clear and unified message.

“It’s so appalling, it’s outside the circle of civilized human behavior,” said Pelosi. “The Trump administration’s cruelty runs bone-deep. A Warren administration will not rip families apart to try and score political points,” said Warren. “The aim is to scare immigrant communities. … And so, he’s going to … do these raids which is a crime against humanity,” said Harris. “We are on your side, we stand with you together,” Durbin told activists protesting ICE enforcement. “It’s really designed to strike fear into people at a moment when fear is something we’ve got way too much of in this country,” said Buttigieg.

So, Democrats were for rule of law when it comes to the Mueller probe, which did not find that the president broke the law. But they are against rule of law when it comes illegal immigrants who have been found by a federal judge to be in violation of U.S. immigration law.

Illegal immigrants subject to ICE enforcement have been given their constitutional right to due process, with the right to a hearing in a federal immigration court and the right to be represented by counsel. If they show up at their hearing and are not granted relief by an immigration judge, they have the right to appeal. If they lose that appeal, they are issued a final order of removal. Once such an order is issued, they must either voluntarily depart the country or turn themselves in to an ICE facility for deportation. If they fail to depart or turn themselves in, then their case is referred to the ICE fugitive unit, which is tasked with finding them.

It is a long process to get to the point where ICE is knocking on someone’s door to enforce a final order of removal. Those now subject to a final deportation order either failed to show up to immigration court; showed up and lost their case; waived their right to appeal; lost their appeal; did not show up for their appeal hearing; were granted voluntary departure but did not leave; or failed to turn themselves in to ICE for court-ordered removal. In each case, a federal judge has ruled that they do not have the right to be in the United States and must leave. But Democratic leaders are now saying they should be allowed to stay, in contravention of our immigration laws.

Then again, Democrats didn’t think this way when they held the White House. President Barack Obama deported far more illegal immigrants than Trump. Axios reports that “under the Obama administration, total ICE deportations were above 385,000 each year in fiscal years 2009-2011, and hit a high of 409,849 in fiscal 2012.” I don’t recall Democrats in Congress accusing Obama of a “crime against humanity” or actions “outside the circle of civilized human behavior.”

Back then, Democrats agreed, as Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) put it in a 2009 speech, that “illegal immigration is wrong, plain and simple.” Since Trump took office, Democrats have become the party of illegal immigration. The want to decriminalize illegal border crossings, cut ICE detention beds to force the agency to release illegal immigrants and then refuse to enforce lawful deportation orders. So, it’s a little hard to take Democrats seriously when, in investigating Trump, they claim to be fighting for the principle that no one is above the law.

Read more:

Juliette Kayyem: The crisis at the border is only a crisis because the Trump administration is choosing it to be

The Post’s View: The U.S. is slamming the door on asylum seekers

Lori Lightfoot: Why Chicago police will not assist ICE in its raids

The Rev. Randall Keeney: Want to provide sanctuary to an undocumented person? This is what it takes.

Juliette Kayyem: Decriminalizing the border is not in anyone’s interest

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Congress Asks USCIS To Explain Immigration Delays And Denials – Forbes

For the past two and a half years, Congress has largely granted U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) a free pass on immigration backlogs and application delays, denials and Requests for Evidence. That began to change at a July 16, 2019, House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), chair of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, told a panel of USCIS witnesses, “I’m concerned about how the processes have changed.” She went on to describe how international students now experience delays for Optional Practical Training (OPT) that last 5 months or more, which means an internship has likely ended by the time an approval for the student comes through from USCIS.

Rep. Lofgren expressed concern that approximately half of H-1B petitions received a Request for Evidence in the second quarter of 2019. She related a recent conversation with an entrepreneur who told her USCIS requested additional evidence on an existing employee who had an H-1B visa, asking if the person’s Ph.D. was well-fitted to the job (even though the person already had been working in the job). The entrepreneur asked a question that tech employers across the country have been asking: What would USCIS know about the employee’s Ph.D. and technical skills as compared to the employer who hired him?

Marketa Lindt, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), testified that AILA’s analysis of USCIS data “reveals that the agency’s average case processing time surged by 46% from FY 2016 to FY 2018 and by 91% from FY 2014 to FY 2018.” Lindt testified that USCIS’s own policies had driven the delays, including requiring in-person interviews for employment-based green card applicants, no longer deferring to prior decisions when adjudicating an extension application for a current visa holder and significantly increasing the number of Requests for Evidence.

When Rep. Lofgren asked the panel about the increase in Requests for Evidence, USCIS Associate Director for Service Center Operations Donald Neufeld said, “I can tell you that a number of changes have been made affecting H-1B processing over the last couple of years.”

This statement in itself is remarkable, since USCIS officials denied during much of the hearing that processing delays had been caused by changes in administration policy. Moreover, in response to lawsuits, administration lawyers have also denied that policies on H-1B visas have changed.

A key point of contention is that data show H-1B denial rates have increased even though the law has not changed and USCIS has not put forward new H-1B regulations for notice and comment – only policy memos instructing adjudicators how to interpret existing law and regulations. “Denial rates for H-1B petitions have increased significantly, rising from 6% in FY 2015 to 32% in the first quarter of FY 2019 for new H-1B petitions for initial employment,” according to a National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) analysis.

During a May 9, 2019, court hearing, U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer asked government attorney Aaron S. Goldsmith about a USCIS memo that has contributed to the dramatic increase in H-1B denials. “If it’s not changing things, why are the results so different?” asked the judge. The government’s answer: “That’s a fair question.”

Neufeld went on in his reply to Rep. Lofgren: “When there’s a change that’s introduced, we train our folks but we also have to educate the public on what the requirements are as we now understand them. So, whenever that happens, regardless of what context, usually it’s pretty predictable that we’ll have an increase in Requests for Evidence, perhaps an increase in denials. Usually over time, as the public become familiar with what the requirements are and as our adjudicators become more proficient, then usually we’ll see the request, the impact of those changes, to become more stable.”

Lawmakers appeared unconvinced that USCIS or the Trump administration are interested in helping companies attract and retain talented scientists and engineers in America. Rep. Lofgren told the USCIS’s Neufeld: “We got Canadian recruiters coming into American tech centers and luring people away. The tech economy in Toronto is growing faster than the tech economy in Silicon Valley and Washington (state), and a lot of people think it’s because of USCIS and our immigration policies.”

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Immigration advocacy groups sue Trump administration over asylum restrictions | TheHill – The Hill

Two immigration groups sued the Trump administration Tuesday evening after it placed new restrictions on migrants’ ability to seek asylum.

Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, saying the restrictions violate the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).


Asylum seekers who pass through another country before reaching the United States will be ineligible for asylum when they reach the southern border, according to the new rule.

The groups are requesting a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against the rule, which would affect most migrants from Central America.

The advocacy organizations allege the rule violates due process and inflicts “immediate and irreparable harm upon asylum seekers by denying them the opportunity to seek asylum in the United States based on asylum bar that is impermissible under the INA.” They also argued that the restrictions hamper their ability to aid their clients and would force them to “drastically divert or redesign their programs.”

Under the rule, those who have been the victims of trafficking are granted exceptions. The rule also exempts migrants passing through countries that have not signed major international refugee treaties and for migrants who have been denied asylum in the countries they traveled through.

A coalition of groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Southern Poverty Law Center and Center for Constitutional Rights, filed a separate suit against the rule earlier Tuesday. Those groups are seeking an injunction blocking enforcement of the rule and an order striking down the rule itself.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: ‘Good’ As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE has called U.S. immigration laws the “dumbest” in the world and has said Congress needs to pass bills to tighten asylum laws. Such legislation has yet to gain traction on Capitol Hill.

The administration has defended the new restrictions as necessary to ease the burden on an immigration system grappling with a rising number of asylum claims by allowing it to swiftly weed out individuals trying to “exploit” the asylum protections. 

“The United States is a generous country but is being completely overwhelmed by the burdens associated with apprehending and processing hundreds of thousands of aliens along the southern border,” Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by JUUL Labs – House to vote to condemn Trump tweet House poised to hold Barr, Ross in contempt Harris campaign accepts money from partners of law firm she criticized over Epstein case MORE said in a statement.

“This Rule will decrease forum shopping by economic migrants and those who seek to exploit our asylum system to obtain entry to the United States—while ensuring that no one is removed from the United States who is more likely than not to be tortured or persecuted on account of a protected ground.”

The new rule applies to those who enter or arrive in the U.S. on or after Tuesday.

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ICE raids: Making an immigration arrest requires hours of surveillance – AZCentral.com

Associated Press Published 9:59 a.m. MT July 16, 2019


ESCONDIDO, Calif. — Two immigration officers had been parked outside a home well before dawn when their target — a Mexican man convicted of driving under the influence in 2015 — appeared to emerge as the sun illuminated a gray sky.

“I’m going to do a vehicle stop,” an officer radioed. “I’m right behind you,” said another, lights flashing as they ordered the driver into a liquor store parking lot.

As it turned out, the man they pulled over was not the one they were looking for. But he happened to be in the country illegally, too, and was taken into custody.

The arrest last week near San Diego illustrates how President Donald Trump’s pledge to deport millions of immigrants in the U.S. without legal permission would be highly impractical to carry out, maybe impossible. For U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, picking up people is a time-consuming, labor-intensive and not-always-successful task.

An arrest of just one immigrant often requires days of surveillance.

At the same time, ICE has a limited budget and a shortage of detention space. Also, more and more law enforcement agencies, especially those in big cities, are refusing to help ICE as part of the growing “sanctuary” movement, slowing down the arrests of immigrants even more.

ICE tactics are in the spotlight amid warnings from the Trump administration that it would begin a sweep Sunday in 10 cities against families who are in the country illegally and have been ordered to leave. Trump claimed on Monday that the operation had a successful start, even though there was no sign of a large-scale operation in those cities.

How ICE raids work

In the recent San Diego operation, officers made 20 arrests over five days. They wore bulletproof vests emblazoned “ICE” on the back and used several unmarked SUVs, immediately ordering those in custody to turn off their phones to prevent family and friends from tracking their movements.

Gregory Archambeault, ICE director of field operations in San Diego, said staking out targets can be like watching paint dry.

“Today it happened pretty quickly, but other times it can take several hours. We have to go back different days,” Archambeault said in the parking lot of a bus and train station where immigrants waited in a bus to be processed.

An estimated 11 million people are in the U.S. illegally, including 525,000 who have deportation orders against them and are considered fugitives. Those fugitives include 2,000 people who recently came as families and are targets of the operation that was expected to begin Sunday.

RELATED: Trump plans to end most migrant asylum requests

ICE operations that zero in on people with criminal convictions in the U.S. result in about 30% of targets being arrested, plus an unknown number of non-targets, or “collaterals,” who are also swept up, ICE officials said. ICE operations against families have proved even less successful, capturing only about 10 percent of the targets, ICE acting Director Matthew Albence said.

ICE officers don’t have warrants that would allow them to enter homes, a fact that immigrant advocates have successfully publicized in encouraging people not to open their doors. For safety reasons, officers in San Diego have stopped “knock-and-talks” — knocking on the door and hoping someone opens up — and instead wait for targets to leave the house, Archambeault said.

“You just don’t know what’s going on, who’s behind that door,” he said.

It is far less costly and more effective for ICE to pick up people at local jails when they are arrested for non-immigration offenses. But a spate of sanctuary laws has sharply limited local authorities’ cooperation in California and elsewhere.

Some cops, hotels won’t help ICE

Escondido, a suburb of 150,000 people that is more than half Latino, had an extraordinarily close alliance with ICE that allowed immigration officers to work at police headquarters and coordinate on vehicle stops. That partnership ended under a state law that took effect last year.

Before making arrests in San Diego, ICE had to line up detention space. The agency, which made about 160,000 arrests during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, is housing an all-time high of about 53,000 people, largely because of an unprecedented surge of Central American families arriving at the Mexican border. Family beds are scarce, and ICE’s only family detention centers are in Pennsylvania and Texas.

Immigration authorities have used hotels to hold families while they wait to be transferred or deported. But Best Western and Marriott say they won’t work with ICE.

Central American families are typically held for a week or two while authorities arrange travel documents and a chartered or commercial flight to their homeland, Albence said. The San Diego targets were Mexican adults, who can usually be sent home by land more quickly.

The man taken into custody in Escondido was a Mexican man who happened to borrow the target’s red pickup to get to work at a landscaping company. Immigration activists decry such collateral arrests, which were sharply curtailed during President Barack Obama’s second term. Trump administration officials are unapologetic.

“It’s not the target, but it’s still a good arrest,” Archambeault said.

Politics Podcast: The Gaggle

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