by Gabino Zavala, Justice and Peace Coordinator
On the issue of immigration the news media is quick to report all that the politicians say and the talk show hosts state. These statements are often inaccurate and distorted. Here are some facts and conclusions that we should be aware of when discussing the issue of immigration in the interest of truth.
- Our border is more secure than ever.
- United States taxpayers currently spend approximately $19 billion a year to secure our border, which is the same amount of money that all the other federal criminal law enforcement agencies have combined.
- The present administration increased Border Patrol staffing to an all-time high of nearly 21,500 agents in 2011 and this administration has virtually ended the practice of “voluntary returns,” or turning back Mexican immigrants without any consequences.
- During the past 8 years, over 2.5 million immigrants have been deported, up 23% from the George W. Bush years. President Obama is now on pace to deport more people than were deported by all 19 presidents who governed the United States from 1892 to 2000, according to government data. The average cost of a deportation exceeds $10,000 per person not including the costs to state and local police.
- Immigration to the United States has actually decreased.
- Illegal immigration is at its lowest level since 1972. The only increases in arrivals are unaccompanied children fleeing gang violence and drug cartels in Central America.
- More Mexican immigrants have been leaving our country in recent years than arriving at our border.
- Most undocumented immigrants do not have the necessary family or employment relationships to “get in line” to legalize their immigration status and often can’t qualify for refugee or asylum status. Those few who might qualify face significant backlogs. For example, a married couple with children who are U.S. citizens must wait more than 20 years for a visa to become available. An exception has been made for Cubans who can come to the United States and get a work permit while waiting for their visas and to a lesser extent for Haitians since the 2010 earthquake.
As we reflect on these facts we should also be aware of the following truths about the contributions of undocumented immigrants to our economy:
- Undocumented immigrants paid approximately $12 billion in state and local taxes in 2013.
- More than two thirds of undocumented immigrants pay into the Social Security system without any expectation of ever collecting benefits. Estimated contributions are $15 billion a year.
We need just and compassionate reform of our broken immigration system.
To read about the United States’ Bishops stance on immigration reform, visit their Frequently Asked Questions page.
To contact your federal representatives regarding immigration reform, vist USA.gov.
Contact the Kansas City Province’s Justice & Peace Ministry to learn how to get involved.