Charlotte has been teaching secondary education for five years. She has a bachelor's degree in Secondary Education and a master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction.
A Brief History of Immigration Policies in the United States
All Americans, aside from Native Americans, are decedents from immigrants or are themselves immigrants. The United States also has a long history of creating laws to control immigration.
Open immigration was initially encouraged because of the need to settle new territories. However, this changed throughout the 1800's with policies that banned or strictly limited Chinese and European immigrants. In the early 1900's there was a quota system that the U.S. government used to determine the amount of each ethnic group that was allowed to immigrate while also promoting workers for needed jobs.
With exceedingly high unemployment rates, the Great Depression caused immigration rates to drop and concerns about foreign workers affecting employment rates to rise. Restrictions based on ethnicity were repealed but those with Communist ties were prevented from entering the United States. Eventually, quota systems were abandoned and immigration was based on the needs of each person applying to immigrate. During this time, immigration was restricted from Mexico, Central America, and South America, resulting in an increase of illegal immigration.
In more recent times there has been an increase in concern about border security. This has resulted in intense political discussion of deportation, building barriers on borders, and stricter immigration policies.
Illegal Immigration Defined
The United States Department of Homeland Security defines illegal immigration as any foreign-born non-citizen individuals who are not legal residents. There are many terms that may be used for an individual that falls under this definition. An illegal immigrant may also be called an illegal alien, illegal immigrant, or undocumented immigrant.
There are a few ways that people may immigrate illegally. An individual may not have gone through the traditional inspections at a country's borders or through transportation security checkpoints. Instead, an individual may be crossing a border secretively. Other undocumented immigrants may have initially been temporarily legally admitted to a country but did not leave when they were supposed to. For example, Jay is a foreign exchange student from Australia. He decided to stay past the expiration date of his visa and travel throughout the United States for six months after.
Approximate Numbers of Undocumented Immigrants
There have recently been small changes in the number of undocumented immigrants living in the United States. As of 2015 there are an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States (approximately 3.4% of total population). This is a small decline from 2009, when Pew Research estimated there were approximately 11.3 million illegal immigrants. It is believed that people who overstay their visas represent 40-50 percent of unauthorized immigrants.
Country of Origin for Undocumented Immigrants
Recently, the amount of unauthorized Mexican immigrants has declined. In 2009, there were approximately 6.4 million unauthorized Mexican immigrants, compared to 2015 where there were approximately 5.6 million Mexican unauthorized immigrants. In 2016, early estimates said they made up half of total unauthorized immigrants, which is the first time in a decade they were not a clear majority of the unauthorized immigrants. Non-Mexican unauthorized immigrants (mostly from Asia and Central America) has increased since 2009 and account for 5.7 million of the total population.
Undocumented Immigrants in the Workforce
In the U.S. workforce, it is estimated there are 8 million unauthorized immigrants (approximately 5% who were working or unemployed and looking for work). From 2009 to 2014 the numbers were mostly unchanged, except for in 2007 when they were slightly down to an estimated 8.2 million. Most unauthorized immigrants work in farming (approx. 26%) and construction (approx. 15%) occupations.
Duration of Time Living in the U.S
There are many unauthorized immigrants who have lived in the US for about a decade. In 2005, approximately 41% of adult undocumented immigrants had lived in the U.S. for about a decade. This is compared to 2014 with approximately 66% of adult undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. for the same period of time. Fewer unauthorized immigrants have lived in the U.S. for less than five years (approx. 14% in 2014 versus approx. 31% in 2005). As of 2014 the average time for adults living in the U.S. was an estimated 13.6 years.
American Citizens' Views of Unauthorized Immigrants in the U.S.
Overall, there is little support from the public to deport all illegal immigrants in the U.S.. Surveys have shown as of 2015 approximately 72% of Americans say undocumented immigrants who meet certain requirements should be allowed to stay in the U.S. While there is little support for deportation, there is support for building a barrier along the U.S. and Mexican border, as well as changing the Constitution to prohibit birthright citizenship. Birthright citizenship is described in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, and states that all people who are born in the U.S. are citizens of the U.S.
There are three agencies in the U.S. that are in charge of monitoring immigration into the United States. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are in charge of enforcing civil immigration laws. ICE focuses on removing individuals who have broken criminal laws, recently crossed into the U.S., repeatedly violated immigration laws, or are fugitives from another country. ICE removed 240,255 illegal immigrants in 2016 which was a 2% increase from 2015 but a 24% decrease from 2014.
The United States has a long history of immigrants and creating laws to control immigration. At times quota systems were implemented which allowed certain numbers of each ethnic group to immigrate. Today, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines illegal immigration as any foreign-born non-citizen individuals who are not legal residents. There are an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States today.
Recently, the amount of unauthorized Mexican immigrants has declined while unauthorized immigrants from Asia and Central America has increased. Most unauthorized immigrants work in farming and construction occupations. There are large amounts of unauthorized immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for approximately a decade. Overall, there is little support from the public to deport all illegal immigrants in the U.S., but there is increasing support for building a barrier and changing the Constitution to prohibit birthright citizenship, which is stated in the 14th Amendment and dictates that all people who are born in the U.S. are citizens of the U.S. United States.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is one agency in charge of enforcing immigration laws. With the ever-changing landscape of immigration, the U.S. government continues to look at past experiences and current information to shape how illegal immigration is handled in the U.S.
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