Seguritan US Immigration Articles

Deportations Declined in 2015

Total deportations declined 25% to 235,415 in fiscal year 2015 from 315,943 in 2014, according to a report dated December 22, 2015 from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The leading countries of origin for those deported were Mexico (146,132), Guatemala (33,249) and El Salvador (21,920). 196 came from the Philippines.

There were also far fewer people trying to get into the United States through unlawful means as evidenced by 337,117 apprehensions nationwide in FY 2015, which was significantly lower than the 486,651 total in FY 2014. This put border apprehensions at a 40-year low.

Border patrol apprehensions of Mexican nationals decreased by 18% compared to FY 2014. Meanwhile, apprehensions of Central American diasporas particularly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala also decreased by 68% compared to FY 2014.

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said that in 2015, they focused the agency’s limited resources to combating threats to national security, public safety and border security rather than expending funding on individuals charged with minor crimes like traffic violations.

Individuals convicted of significant or multiple misdemeanors, or individuals arrested inside the US who unlawfully entered or reentered the country or individuals who had significantly abused the visa or visa waiver programs became a second priority of the DHS. More focus was on individuals considered as national security threats, convicted felons or aggravated felons, members of active criminal gangs, and illegal entrants apprehended in the border.

There was a shift in their enforcement actions at port of entry focusing more on arrests of individuals wanted for serious offenses like murder, rape, assault and robbery. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers arrested 8,246 individuals wanted for the aforesaid crimes and stopped 225,342 inadmissible individuals from entering the United States through ports of entry. The CBP also identified 11,611 high-risk travelers who would have been found inadmissible had they traveled to the United States, and who were prevented from boarding flights to the United States.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) also placed more emphasis in going after convicted criminals as opposed to non-criminal immigration violators. It increased the percentage of deportation of felons by 3% over FY 2014 with a total of 139,368 removals or 59% of its total removals in 2015.

Another significant trend noted by the recent report is the rise of asylum seekers from Central America fleeing extreme violence in the region. Although apprehensions of individuals from countries other than Mexico- predominantly those from Central America- decreased by 68% in 2015, more nationals from these countries filed claims for protection under US law. During the early months of 2015 alone, USCIS received more asylum applications than the previous years.

As of October 2015, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that out of 16,077 females from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico who were subjected to fear screenings by US asylum officers, 82% proved a bona fide claim for asylum under the Convention against Torture.

K-1 VISA UNDER SCRUTINY

Earlier this month, news broke out that 14 innocent civilians were killed in a company party in San Bernardino, California. As a result of the mass shooting, the K-1 fiancé(e) visa process is being looked into because Tashfeen Malik, a Pakistani citizen, and one of the terrorists who carried out said shooting came to the US on a K-1 visa and later became a lawful permanent resident.

Several members of the US Congress have expressed concern over the fact that Malik was able to obtain her K-1 visa despite giving fingerprints and other information that were checked and cross-referenced against US immigration, terrorism and criminal databases. As a result, the USCIS is now looking into enforcing stricter guidelines.

The US government has a stringent process currently in place to ensure that marriages are made in good faith and is not ‘sham marriage’ or ‘fake marriage’. Under the program, the two people involved—the US citizen and his foreigner fiancé(e)— must genuinely love each other and have the sincere intent to get married within 90 days of the fiancé(e)’s arrival in the US. Both of them must be legally free to marry at the time a fiancé(e) petition is submitted to USCIS by the US citizen sponsor and must remain so thereafter. The couple must have met in person within the past two years. Proof of the relationship must likewise be shown.

Once the USCIS approves the K1 visa petition, it is forwarded to the National Visa Center where background checks are performed on the foreigner fiancé(e). The NVC will forward the petition to the Consulate that will conduct the interview. During the foreigner fiancé(e)’s interview before the Consulate, he/she is required to show proof of their intent to get married like pictures, letters, travel and hotel records and instant messages to the interviewing officer. Even during this stage, an application can be turned down if it cannot show enough proof of the relationship’s genuineness. In addition, it can be turned down on account of the foreigner fiancé(e)’s police or criminal record. The foreigner fiancé(e) also has to undergo a thorough medical examination.

Upon arrival in the US, the couple has 90 days to get married otherwise the foreigner fiancé(e) can be deported. When he/she applies for Adjustment of Status, they also have to show proof like pictures and joint documents. This is another step the couple needs to hurdle as it usually takes another six months before the ‘green card’ will be released, if at all.

The foreigner wife/husband has to go through another round of fingerprinting and facial recognition and another round of interview by the USCIS before the ‘green card’ is approved. Questions like “Do you seek to engage in terrorist activities while in the US or have you ever engaged in terroristic activities?” need to be answered.

From 1989 to 2014, 512,164 K-1 visas were given following these layers of processes placed to ensure that nobody thwarts the security measures of the United States and to ensure that the couple are really who they purport to be.

It is also important to note that depending on which country the fiancé(e) is from, the process can be even more daunting. The Philippines, for instance, has the largest K-1 visa applicants with over 7,228 Filipinos entering the US in fiscal year 2014, but at the same token, it also has the most difficult process. US citizens often go to the Philippines to meet their fiancé(e) because it is logistically hard for Filipinos to obtain a tourist visa to the US to visit the American fiancé(e).

Needless to say, while we want our borders secure and free from anybody who wishes to cause harm, it is not fair to single out a particular type of visa. US citizens must likewise be free to marry foreign spouses of their choosing. And while more scrutiny and additional screening for the K-1 visa is inevitable, holders of K-1 visa have obtained the privilege to be on American soil by following a long and difficult process.

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