Check the facts: Resource guide for immigration, deportations in America

Protesters that marched from Freedom Plaza to the U.S. Capitol demonstrate inside the Hart Senate Office Building against family detentions and to demand the end of criminalizing efforts of asylum seekers and immigrants June 28, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
This resource guide is connected to Local 4's documentary, "Un-Wanted: The Deportation of an Immigrant Michigan Family's American Dream," which follows the heartbreaking story of a Michigan family torn apart and uprooted after decades of fighting for citizenship. Watch the documentary here.

We urge our audience to be informed.  We recommend that in order to be informed that our audience read more than one newspaper or periodical, to get your news from more than one source.  Be your own detective for the facts.  

Separating fact from fiction can be difficult. Just because something is online, doesn’t make it true. That’s the most important rule in fact-finding and fact-checking.

We’ve put together a resource guide that navigates you through our research as a starting point for you to do your own fact checking. Finding hard numbers on illegal immigrants is difficult because this is a population that is often afraid to be counted.

Our primary sources of information are always government entities that are tasked with counting.  These agencies don’t count every year and so finding empirical and comparative data can be difficult.  But government agencies are the best places to start.

Primary sources include:
U.S. Census Bureau
American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau (ACS)
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Government Accounting Office (GAO)
Bureau of Prisons (BOP)

Secondary sources are organizations that hold contracts with the U.S. Government to help it count. Often the government will commission a study or look for answers from these non-profit, non-partisan organizations.

Secondary sources include:
The Brookings Institute
The Pew Institute
The Center for Migration Studies

We never use partisan organizations as sources.  It’s not uncommon for a non-profit to cloak itself as a non-partisan organization and so you must be careful of ‘spin’.  One way to check is to find out who the board members are, check funding sources and carefully investigate the writings and documents of the organization.  Other media sources are also NOT sources of information, though we have included links to articles and coverage of immigration issues so that our viewers can see how primary data is interpreted in many ways.

We hope this guide is a roadmap for you to check our facts for yourself to gain a better understanding of this most difficult to understand topic.

Is ICE deporting more un-authorized immigrants?

Source: ICE

Do immigrants commit more crimes?

a.    According to ACS, a limitation of the ACS data is that estimates of the illegal immigrant population include some legal migrants who are here on other visas but whose answers are consistent with those of illegal immigrants. As a result, they say they likely overestimate the number of illegal immigrants who are incarcerated. Thus, the estimates of the illegal immigrant incarcerated population and incarceration rate are likely greater than they really are due to ACS’s data limitations.

b.    The majority of inmates in the public-use microdata version of the ACS are in correctional facilities, but the data also include those in mental health, handicapped, and elderly care institutions. This adds ambiguity to the findings about the illegal immigrant population but not about the immigrant population as a whole, because the ACS releases macro-demographic snapshots of inmates in correctional facilities, which allows us to check our work. This ambiguity in illegal immigrant incarceration rates is why they narrowed the age range to 18-54 so as to exclude inmates in mental health and retirement facilities.

c.    There were an estimated 2,007,502 natives, 122,939 illegal immigrants, and 63,994 legal immigrants incarcerated in 2014 according to ACS. The incarceration rate was 1.53 percent for natives, 0.85 percent for illegal immigrants, and 0.47 percent for legal immigrants Illegal immigrants are 44 percent less likely to be incarcerated than natives. Legal immigrants are 69 percent less likely to be incarcerated than natives. Legal and illegal immigrants are underrepresented in the incarcerated population while natives are overrepresented. If native-born Americans were incarcerated at the same rate as illegal immigrants, about 893,000 fewer natives would be incarcerated. If natives were incarcerated at the same rate as legal immigrants, about 1.4 million fewer natives would be incarcerated.

Sources: FBI, Census, NY Times, Washington Post, Brookings.

Are un-documented immigrants stealing jobs?

As of 2014, there are no major U.S. industries in which immigrants outnumber the U.S. born, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of government data.

Immigrants made up 17.1% of the total U.S. workforce in 2014, or about 27.6 million workers out of 161.4 million. About 19.6 million workers, or 12.1% of the total workforce, were in the U.S. legally; about 8 million, or 5%, entered the country without legal permission or overstayed their visas.

The U.S. workforce includes 8 million unauthorized immigrants in 2014. The number was unchanged from 2009 and down slightly from 8.2 million in 2007. The share of unauthorized immigrants in the civilian labor force was also down slightly from 2009 (5.2%) and 2007 (5.4%). Compared with their 5% share of the civilian workforce overall, unauthorized immigrants are overrepresented in farming and construction occupations (26% and 15%, respectively).

In all industries and occupations, though, they are outnumbered by U.S.-born workers.

Sources: Brookings, PEW

Are foreign language speakers foreigners?

Sources: Census, CIS

Are illegal immigrants using welfare, public assistance?

According to SSA report in 2010, while unauthorized immigrants worked and contributed as much as $13 billion in payroll taxes to the OASDI program, only about $1 billion in benefit payments during 2010 are attributable to unauthorized work. 

Unauthorized immigrants are ineligible for most major federally-funded safety net programs according to 2016 report by congressional research service (“Noncitizen Eligibility for Federal Public Assistance: Policy Overview). Key safety net programs, including the cash welfare program Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program), and the means-tested disability program Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are available only to “qualified” immigrants and citizens.

Bill Clinton signed The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, or “IIRIRA.” Congress legislated that not only would undocumented immigrants not receive welfare, but legal immigrants wouldn’t get benefits such as food stamps, Medicaid or money for child assistance until they’ve lived here at least five years and even seven years after their arrival.

Sources: American Economic Association, SSA

Are immigrants untrained, uneducated?

Sources: Brookings, US Chamber, OECD

Only the 'bad hombres' are being deported, right?

For removals of illegal immigrants from within the country, in 2016 92.33% were criminal compared to 83.16% in 2017.

Estimates of the total deportable  criminal noncitizen population vary widely, from about 820,000 according to the Migration Policy Institute to 1.9 million according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but rarely is the number of those incarcerated estimated.

In 2017, ICE ERO conducted 143,470 overall administrative arrests, which is the highest number of administrative arrests over the past three fiscal years. Of these arrests, 92 percent had a criminal conviction, a pending criminal charge, were an ICE fugitive or were processed with a reinstated final order. 

According to new numbers for the 2018 fiscal year, between October 2017 and March 2018, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers arrested 21 percent more immigrants with no criminal convictions to their name, compared to the same period of time the year prior. 

The Washington Post reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 37,734 undocumented “noncriminal” immigrants in the 2017 fiscal year, more than double the amount in 2016. This category of people includes those facing charges and those with no criminal records at all.

While more conviction-less immigrants are being detained, the number actually being deported remains about the same. Overall, about 54 percent of deported immigrants without legal status in the first half of fiscal 2018 had criminal convictions.

Is the illegal immigrant population growing?

Latest numbers from DHS’ Office of Immigration Statistics (OIS), show an estimated 12.1 million unauthorized immigrants were living in the United States on January 1, 2014, up from an estimated 11.9 million on January 1, 2013.

Pew estimates showed 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants residing in the United States as of March 2014 and 11.2 million in 2013.  The Center for Migration Studies estimate 10.9 million in 2014 and 11.0 million in 2013 and cite a decline in illegal population from 2012 to 2014, but it is only by less than 2 percent.

Unlike CMS, the Pew Research Center does not report a decline in the illegal population in recent years. Pew's figures show that from 2009 to 2014 the illegal population "remained essentially stable."

A stable or even declining illegal population does not mean that new illegal immigrants are not coming. CMS, the Pew Research Center estimate that 300,000 to 400,000 new illegal immigrants arrive each year. 

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