Monday, December 21, 2015

The Immigration Debate: Today’s Issues

Surge at southern border sparks debate across U.S.

By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Tribune Newspapers

   HOUSTON — The southern border has become a flashpoint in recent weeks as Syrian families, along with Cuban and Central American migrants, have arrived to seek asylum. At the same time, the president’s executive action programs to provide temporary relief for up to 5 million immigrants have ignited a heated national debate. Here is some background on today’s immigration issues.

   Q: How many Syrians have arrived at the southern border seeking asylum?
   A: It depends on whom you ask. Several Syrian families have arrived at the southern border in recent months, seeking asylum, but the administration has delayed releasing complete figures. According to a Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman, only five Syrians were stopped by Border Patrol nationwide in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, with 14 the previous year and two the year before that. But U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, whose South Texas district includes Laredo, said there actually were more than 80 Syrians apprehended at the border last year.

   Q: Has there been an influx of Cuban migrants?
   A: There was a 44 percent increase in the number of Cubans arriving at U.S. ports of entry in the year that ended Sept. 30, 43,159 compared with 24,278 the year before, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. While Cuban migration to the U.S. has increased annually since 2009, officials conceded that the recent jump significantly exceeds the average increase in the last six years.

   Q: What’s driving the upswing in Cuban immigrants?
   A: Cuban migrants who recently entered Texas through Laredo told Tribune Newspapers that they fled after the U.S. and Cuba announced last December the beginning of a process to normalize relations. The change, migrants feared, would mean the end of the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, which allows Cubans who make it to the U.S. to stay and work legally. Their fears appear unjustified in the short term. Secretary of State John Kerry said last summer that he had no intention of changing the policy.

   Q: Last year, President Barack Obama said Central American children and families flooding the border had created a “humanitarian crisis.” What is happening now?
   A: There has been a new surge this fall in Central American families and unaccompanied children arriving at the southern border, according to Customs and Border Protection figures. In October and November , the number of families intercepted there nearly tripled to 12,505 compared with the same period last year, while the number of unaccompanied children more than doubled to 10,588.

   Q: Where are the unaccompanied minors coming from?
   A: Most travel from Guatemala and El Salvador.

   Q: What is the status of Obama’s proposal to give temporary legal status to up to 5 million immigrants now in the U.S.?
   A: The programs, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, would not apply to recent arrivals, such as the Central American families, Cubans or Syrians stopped at the border recently. The programs were designed to allow children brought to the country by their parents, or parents of U.S. citizens or resident children, to stay in the U.S. Texas, joined by 25 states, sued to block the programs, arguing that they create an undue burden including associated costs, such as the cost of issuing immigrants driver’s licenses. Texas attorneys asked for a 30-day extension until Jan. 20 to respond because of a heavy workload. On Dec. 8, the court denied Texas’ request and granted an eight-day delay instead. 

Ben Ferro (Editor)

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