Many thousands of amnesty seeking persons from U.S. sanctioned countries are crossing at the Mexican border

A significant share of persons crossing the Mexican border in search of amnesty come from countries which has incurred the official wrath of the United States.

In October 2022, U.S. Customs and Border Protection had about 240,000 encounters at the Mexican border (many may be the same persons from prior months trying again). About 180,000 were from seven countries.  The country with the most persons was Mexico (66,000). Three countries with which the U.S. has an officially hostile relations – Cuba (29,000), Venezuela (22,000) and Nicaragua (21,000) — totaled about 72,000.  Given as the U.S. considers their governments as oppressive and (for Venezuela) illegitimate, it is reasonable to expect that many of these 72,000 will qualify for amnesty.  (Go here.)


The Wall Street Journal reports that In the 12 months through October, around 244,000 Cubans were apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol after fleeing economic misery and political repression at home. Most of them came via this expensive airlift through Nicaragua, and were released into the U.S., according to U.S. officials.

It is the largest number of Cubans to arrive in the U.S. in a single wave since the late Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, twice the 125,000 who came in the Mariel boatlift of 1980 and almost six times as many as in the comparable 2021 period.

U.S. policy regarding Cuban refugees: the U.S. embassy in Havana has issued a statement that the following are acceptable reasons for amnesty: Members of persecuted religious minorities; Human rights activists; Former political prisoners; Forced-labor conscripts (1965-1968); and Persons deprived of their professional credentials or subjected to other disproportionately harsh or discriminatory treatment resulting from their perceived or actual political or religious beliefs or activities.


On September 2022 White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said Nicaraguans are “fleeing political persecution and communism.” (Go here.)


In October 2022 the Biden administration said it would accept up to 24,000 Venezuelans via a humanitarian parole plan. (Go here.) This number is about equal to the number of Venezuelans to appear at the Mexican border each months. The administration in 2021 had provided for Temporary Protection Status though March 2024 to 320,000 Venezuelans in the U.S. without authorization. Yet as a sign of conflicted policy, the U.S. is expelling Venezuelans at the border (go here).



Georgia’s audit of voters among non-citizens

There are about 600,000 non-citizen foreign born persons in the Georgia, in addition to about 400,000 foreign born persons who have naturalized.

George Secretary of State Raffensperger conducted the first audit of Georgia’s voter rolls for citizenship status in the state’s history.  He focused on attempted registrations. He reported the results in March, 2022. (Here and here.)

The review involved the Georgia Department of Driver Services and USCIS’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program.

The attempts spanned from 1997 until as recently as February 24, 2022. 1,319, or 80.7% of the attempted registrations, have occurred since 2016.

The search found 1,634 individuals who had attempted to register to vote in Georgia despite not being citizens. None of these individuals have cast ballots in Georgia elections.

Assume that 85% of the non-naturalized foreign born are adults, or 510,000 persons, This means that 0.3% attempted to register to vote.  however, is it very likely that some of these persons had incorrectly labeled themselves as non-citizens in their drivers license forms. Databases do not match 100% each other and the facts in the ground.

I have posted here and here about spurious allegations of voter fraud by non-citizens.

The Special Immigrant Visa crisis explained

The New York Times ran this column on February 16 about the perils of Afghans due to failures in the SIV program.

What is a Special Immigrant Visa?

The “special immigrant” category was first instituted in 1965 as an amendment (and later amended) to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of 1952, includes many classifications, including the following: An immigrant employed by the U.S. government overseas who “performed faithful service” for 15 years and those whose lives have been put in danger as a result of their employment with the U.S. government or its affiliates. Each need for an SIV involves a special act to approve more visas,

Here is a summary of the SIV programs specifically created for Iraqi and Afghan conflicts. Note that the size of these programs were initially set in the low 1,000s. By the end of 2019, some 18,000 visas were issued. An August 23, 2021 WSJ article includes an estimate that some 100,000 persons (including dependents) might be eligible. Last year, I showed here that past evacuations in similar circumstances indicated a 100,000 level effort.

Problems in the Iraq and Afghan SIV programs were well documented. Here is an Inspector General’s report dated June 2020.

This month (February 2022) Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee criticized the evacuation. Focusing on the SIV program the report said that the administration failed to correct well known problems in the SIV program including how employment was verified. The State Dept and Defense Dept did not have a proactive system for tracking employment.

There is no SIV program in place for Syrian and Kurdish helpers in the Syrian conflict.

More on the soaring immigration court backlog

From the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse ( TRAC ) at Syracuse University, which closely monitors immigration and border flows, immigration court activity, and other aspects of immigration. The following comes from a study of immigration courts along the Mexican border.

At the start of the Bush administration the backlog stood at just 149,338. The backlog had continued to grow under President Obama. And it only accelerated under President Trump. But in late 2021, the backlog about 1.6 million, having grown in every year.

In 2009, asylum cases took 15 months to be heard. Today, it takes 58 months,

Although the recent surge in the Immigration Court backlog is alarming, it is not as if Congress or the federal government has been in kept in the dark about this problem. Since at least 2008, TRAC has published regular reports and alerts about the growing backlog.

In May 2009 a TRAC study reported on how judges were poorly resourced (for instance, in clerks). Three presidential administrations has failed to correct the situation.

I posted on this problem in December.

Governor Abbot’s border ploy

Deployment of Texas state forces to the Mexican border has, even by public statements of the state, resulted in very little. “Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star to arrest Immigrants at the Texas border Is actually helping some asylum-seekers stay In the country” (here). With the estimated cost of personnel deployment at $2 billion, it is hard to see the merit in the arrest of only some 10,000 persons, virtually all for minor infractions of trespass, and the apparently referral of tens of thousands of persons to what may be ayslum applications.

In March, 2021 Texas governor Greg Abbott launched Operation Lone Star, an initiative to deploy public safety personnel to the Mexican border

On June 1, 2021, Governor Abbott issued a disaster declaration along Texas’ southern border. “The Governor is authorizing the use of all necessary and available state and local resources to protect landowners in these counties from trespassers and the damage they cause to private property. ‘President Biden’s open-border policies have paved the way for dangerous gangs and cartels, human traffickers, and deadly drugs like fentanyl to pour into our communities,’ said Governor Abbott. Meanwhile, landowners along the border are seeing their property damaged and vandalized.”

Because states cannot enforce immigration laws, Texas authorities are left to arresting persons for innocently trespassing on private property and handing the vast majority of persons over to the Feds, leading to asylum applications.

In October 2021, one news media outlet reported 7,000 arrests, another 32,000 arrests. The grounds of arrests were usually trespassing on private property without intent or damage to the property – not serious criminal acts such as smuggling or trafficking.

“At the end of the day, my office is not enforcing immigration laws. They’re being charged with trespass,” the Val Verde County attorney said. “What I can tell you is this, as I’ve considered every aspect in those cases we have dismissed, I’m pretty confident those individuals didn’t break anybody’s fence, didn’t cause destruction, didn’t linger, didn’t harass anybody in their home. They’re simply crossing what to them looks like open rural land.” (from here.)

A February 2 article said that the Department of Public Safety said that it made 10,400 criminal arrests, including 2,572 arrests for criminal trespassing, and turned some 100,000 persons over to the CBP (Customs and Border Protection). I can’t find information as to how many so turned over applied for asylum, nor those convicted. (also here.)

The National Guard deployment is expected to cost $2 billion, with about 6,500 troops plus Dept of Public Safety personnel at the border.

New York City’s new voter law for non-citizens

In December 2021, New York City authorized non-citizens to vote in municipal elections. This is by far the largest enfranchisement of non-citizens in the United States. (For an inventory of these laws, go here.) on January 10, a suit was filed saying the law violated New York State’s constitution.

In one fell swoop, the legally eligible voters in municipal elections rose from about 5.8 million by about 800,000, or 14%. Additionally, if unauthorized residents are considered, the rolls increase by an additional 7%. (These estimates I developed myself.) Roughly one fifth of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s adult population is newly enfranchised.

This chart shows the size of several segments (in millions) of the foreign born population of the City.

(Here is data on the City’s population. Here is a breakdown of non-citizens by borough. Here is another analysis of the immigrant population of the city.)

The pie chart shows how the law affects the distribution of eligible voters.

Legally, anyone with a Green Card or a work visa who has resided in the City for at least 6 months is eligible (until the very end, the drafts called for just 3 months). (Here is the law in full. Here is the best analysis of the law.)

The law not only does not include any steps to verify legal status of persons registering as a voters, but also expressly bars the City from asking this information: “No inquiries shall be made as to the immigration status of potential municipal voter or municipal voter, other than to ascertain whether he or she qualifies to vote under this chapter. If such information is volunteered to any city employee, it will not be recorded or shared with any other federal, state, or local agency, except as otherwise required by law.”

The law requires the person to sign and affidavit saying “I meet all of the requirements to register to vote in New York State except for United States citizenship.” Misrepresentation penalties are relatively minor compared to what I would expect for voter fraud: a $500 penalty and up to a year in jail.

Refugee resettlement in the US explained

Danilo Zak at the Immigration Forum explains refugee resettlement works. Here are some highlights. He describe sthe U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) and the backlogs at various stages of the pipeline. He also identifies possible solutions to quickly rebuild the pipeline, which Trump attempted with some success to destroy.

Go here for historical trends in refugee flows into the U.S.

Several pathways into refugee status are available depending on the case. Biden has submitted a plan to allow individuals (you, me, our family) to sponsor refugees.

There are Resettlement Support centers around the world. Non-governmental organizations help run them.  The centers conduct an initial interview with the applicant, collecting biographic and biometric information and sharing it with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security  to initiate security checks.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services refugee officers do to the centers and conduct in person interviews. The interview constitutes an official refugee status determination and results in either an approval to move on with the process or a denial.

Applicants are subjected to a multitude of security and medical checks to ensure they pose no national security risk to the U.S. The security screenings check against a series of biographic and biometric lists kept by the U.S. Department of Defense, DHS, the FBI, and international law enforcement organizations like Interpol. Medical checks tend to occur near the end of the process, as they are only valid for six months and refugees must travel to the U.S. before they expire.

Approved refugees are connected to a sponsoring resettlement agency in the U.S. with capacity to welcome them. take out a loan to pay for their flights to the U.S. The government provides resettlement agencies a one-time payment of $2,175 per refugee resettled to cover housing and other basic needs for the first three months in the U.S.

There are no concrete estimates concerning how long it takes to go through this process. Prior to the Trump administration, the average processing time was regularly listed at 18 to 24 months. Since 2017, however, the implementation of additional vetting and security protocols, the Trump administration slashing resources to various parts of the system, and the sweeping impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have all almost certainly increased wait times.

United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees currently estimates the process from referral to resettlement for refugees it is responsible for to take between two and 10 years.

Visa backlog dissected

Processing times for visas have generally increased. The increases began before the pandemic, for instance by 2019. Go here for the USCIS’s own website for estimating processing delays by type of visa and USCIS office. (Example, Green Card award (form 485) in Texas: 14 to 42 months.)

Trump threw sand into the visa processing machine. Here is an April 22, 2020 executive order suspending all visa awards.

April 12, 2021 CNN reports: in February 2017, just after Trump took office, there was a backlog of 2,312 family-preference visa applications, according to Rebecca Austin, assistant director of the National Visa Center at the State Department. Each of the next three years, that backlog more than doubled and doubled again, reaching 26,737 by Feb. 8, 2020. Then, due to the pandemic closures, by February 8 of this year, the backlog leaped to nearly 285,000, she said in a declaration to a federal court in California.

May 24, 2021 Boundless reports: In recent years, overall application processing times have surged by 25%, despite a roughly 10% decrease in overall filings received by USCIS. “This incredible increase in processing times is directly tied to several policies implemented in the past four years by the agency itself,” wrote Boundless. To tackle the backlog, Boundless recommends that USCIS overturn inefficient policies and procedures, such as eliminating unnecessary interviews and rescind harmful regulations that serve only to penalize U.S. employers, non-citizens, asylum applicants, and unaccompanied minors.

October 15, 2021. Cato reports: The State Department remains a major barrier to reopening the United States to legal travel and immigration. As of mid‐October, 60 percent of consulates remained fully or partially closed to anything other than emergency nonimmigrant visa appointments, and 40 percent are completely closed to non‐emergency nonimmigrant visa appointments, according to the State Department’s website. Nonimmigrant visas are used by temporary foreign workers, students, business travelers, tourists, and others.

Worse still, the State Department has essentially stopped making any progress toward fully reopening nonimmigrant (i.e. temporary) visa processing with only 2 percent of consulates entering fully open status since August, and no decrease at all in the share (40 percent) that are fully closed to nonemergency nonimmigrant appointments. The fully open consulates (40 percent) are reporting wait times of, in many cases, six months or longer for some nonimmigrant visas.

December, 2021 State Dept suspends interview requirements for some visas.

January 1, 2022 Boundless reports that the USCIS had a net backlog of 2.5 million visa cases at the end of FY2019. Fiscal and staffing problems, pandemic-related office closures, and an inability to receive or process most application types electronically resulted 6.1 million pending cases by end of FY 2020. The backlog at grew to more than 8 million pending cases at the end of FY2021.


Child separations at Mexican border: a time line

Much of this time line comes from here.

2017: In El Paso, adults who crossed the border without permission – a misdemeanor for a first-time offender – are detained and criminally charged. No exceptions are made for parents arriving with young children. The children were taken from them, and parents were unable to track or reunite with their children because the government failed to create a system to facilitate reunification. By late 2017, the government was separating families along the length of the U.S.-Mexico border, including families arriving through official ports of entry.

May 7, 2018: the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announces it had implemented a “zero tolerance” policy, dictating that all migrants who cross the border without permission, including those seeking asylum, be referred to the DOJ for prosecution. Undocumented asylum seekers were imprisoned, and any accompanying children under the age of 18 were handed over to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which scattered them among 100 Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) shelters and other care arrangements across the country.

June 15, 2018: For the first time, DHS publicly acknowledges that it separated nearly 2,000 children from their parents or legal guardians between April 19 and May 31. The government’s protocol for reunifying families has yet to be made clear.

June 17, 2018: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tweets, falsely: “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.”

June 18 2018: Tweet by Stephen Miller: “It was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry.” 

June 20, 2018: Reacting to mounting public pressure, President Trump signs an executive order directing DHS to stop separating families except in cases where there is concern that the parent represents a risk to the child. Trump falsely blames Congress, the courts and previous administrations for his family separation policy.

June 26, 2018: U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw issues a preliminary injunction requiring U.S. immigration authorities to reunite most separated families within 30 days and to reunite children younger than 5 within two weeks.

Oct. 15, 2018: The government reports to a court that a total of 2,654 children have been separated from their parents, and of that number, 2,363 have been discharged from custody. 125 children made the decision to pursue asylum in the U.S. without their parent.

Jan. 17, 2019: The list of families to be reunified is “still being revised” nearly six months after reunification is ordered by a federal court,

April 6, 2019: The government says in court documents that it may take two years to identify potentially thousands of children who’ve been separated from their families at the southern border.

Aug. 21, 2019: DHS and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announce a new rule that would end the Flores settlement, a consent decree in place for more than two decades that limits the length of time migrant children can be detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to 20 days, requires the government to comply with certain standards of care, and states that children must be placed in the “least restrictive” setting appropriate for their age and needs. The Trump administration’s rule would allow it to indefinitely detain migrant families who crossed the border without authorization.

Sept. 27, 2019: U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee of the Central District of California rejects the administration’s plan to end the Flores settlement.

October 3, 2019: The American Civil Liberties Union and partners file a federal lawsuit (A.I.I.L. v. Sessions) seeking damages on behalf of thousands of traumatized children and parents who were forcibly torn from each other under the Trump administration’s practice of separating families at the border.

February 2, 2021: President Biden signs executive order 14011 to establish the interagency task force on the reunification of families.

June 8, 2021: The task forces counts 3,913 children of having been separated. Of the 3,913 children, 1,786 have been reunified with a parent, mostly during Trump’s tenure, parents of another 1,965 have been contacted and the whereabouts of 391 have not been established. Many who have been contacted were released to other family members.

Sept 30, 2021: The task force issues an interim report: As of September 23, the task force has identified 3948 children who were separated from their parents by the department of Homeland Security at the United States Mexican border between July 1, 2017 and January 20, 2021. The task force is aware of 410 children who were returned to the home country, some with in some without their parents, and 1,707 parents who were returned to their home country, some with and some without their children. The task force confirm that 2171 children have been reunified with the parents in the United States; in addition, the task force has reunified 50 children. There are 1,727 children who have not been reunified to the task force’s knowledge and 50 children who are in the process of being unified by the task force.

December 16, 2021: The Biden administration abandons negotiations over compensation for plaintiffs in ACLU class action suit filed October 3, 2019.

Naturalization trends

Naturalizations of eligible persons rose upwards towards one million a year during the Trump administration, out of fear that he would block naturalization. The Pandemic drove the numbers down to under 700,000. (Go here and here).

Consistent with his anti-immigration policy, President Trump even made it more difficult for Green Card holders to become citizens, by doubling fees, eliminating most fee waivers for low-income applicants, and impose a more difficult and time-consuming civics test. The fee proposal was blocked by a U.S. district court judge, and the Biden administration reinstated the earlier civics test shortly after taking office in early 2021.

There were 23.2 million naturalized U.S. citizens in the United States in 2019, the most recent reporting available, making up 52 percent of the overall immigrant population, which stood at 44.9 million. 

Many immigrants who are here on permanent visas (green cards) don’t take out citizenship, but most do, and the rate has gone up. According to Pew Research, naturalization rates rose from 62% in 2005 to 67% in 2015. An estimated 9 million are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship. The 11 million illegal immigrants are of course not eligible.

Eligible immigrants from Vietnam, 86%, and Iran, 85%, had the highest naturalization rates of any group in 2015. Above 80% rates are seen for India, South Korea and a few other countries. The rate among Chinese is 76%. Mexican immigrants have long had among the lowest U.S. naturalization rates (42%) of any origin group.

To be eligible for U.S. citizenship, immigrants must be age 18 or older, have resided in the U.S. for at least five years as lawful permanent residents (or three years for those married to a U.S. citizen), and be in good standing with the law, among other requirements. The multi-step process to obtain U.S. citizenship begins with submitting an application and paying a $725 fee.

The U.S. government denied naturalization applications from 2005 to 2015 to 11% of the 8.5 million applications filed during this time. The standards are here. Ability to speak English is one of them but there are exemptions.