For legal immigrants, the most common entry point is New York City, and the busiest airport is New York’s JFK International, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. For unauthorized immigrants, the Texas border is most common.
Since the 2007-09 recession, more Mexicans have left the U.S. than have come in. The Pew Research Center discovered this by comparing two numbers. One is from the Mexican National Survey of Demographic Dynamics, which showed that a million people returned to Mexico from the U.S. between 2009 and 2014. The second number, from the U.S. Census, showed 870,000 people coming into the U.S. from Mexico during that period. The result was a net decline of 130,000 people. Reasons included border enforcement and declining economic opportunity in the U.S. Most people returning to Mexico did so on their own, usually to be with their families.
Three agencies of the Department of Homeland Security oversee immigration policy, investigation and enforcement:
U.S. Customs and Border Protection monitors the borders with the U.S. Border Patrol. It directly patrols international land borders, apprehending people who are trying to enter illegally or smuggle others in.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement enforces immigration laws within the U.S. It investigates, arrests, detains and removes people living in the U.S. illegally.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reviews and grants immigrant applications and decides who receives citizenship.
There are several steps.
The first step is to establish eligibility. Generally, this is done by being a permanent resident who lives in the U.S. for at least five years.
After the application, there is a background check and fingerprinting.
Then, there is an interview with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and English and civics testing.
Applications may either be granted, continued or denied. Approvals can take an average of six months or as much time as Immigration Services says is needed.
Application fees are $680 per person, which includes $595 for the application and $85 for the background check and fingerprinting. Each family member must pay, and fees are not refundable. Legal costs paid to lawyers are additional.
It is an immigrant who is not a citizen, but who can stay and work indefinitely. Such immigrants are on a Form I-551, a so-called green card.
The paths to permanent residence typically have to do with work or family. People can jeopardize chances for permanent residency status and be deported or barred from re-entry if they leave the country for extended periods or falsely claim to be citizens.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said there were 13.3 million legal permanent residents on Jan. 1, 2012. About 8.8 million were eligible to naturalize.
This is the former term for a permanent resident. Permanent resident cards used to be called “alien registration cards.”
Yes, as long as he or she is 18 or older and a citizen. Naturalized citizens vote more than natural-born citizens. Permanent residents may not vote in federal elections.
These groups are defined under national and international laws.
According to the United Nations, a refugee “is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.”
An asylum-seeker “is someone whose request for sanctuary has yet to be processed.”
The U.S. limits the number of refugees that may be admitted into the country. The number is set by the president in consultation with Congress. There is no cap on the number of asylum seekers, but they must apply for asylum within a year of entering the U.S.
Churches often provide sanctuary or sponsorship for immigrants and refugees seeking a safe living environment.
They help with English and other training, jobs, housing, furnishings, transportation and emotional support. They might also assist with asylum claims or hearings.
According to New York’s Center for Migration Studies, that number fell below 11 million in 2015, the lowest since 2003. The change was driven by a decline in the number of people from Mexico.
Twelve states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Vermont and Washington) and the District of Columbia permit unauthorized immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. Applicants must provide documents such as a foreign passport and proof of state residency.
Once deportation is ordered, a person usually has some time while travel documents and transportation are arranged.
Once arranged, a letter will tell the deportee when and where to report and how much baggage may be brought. In other circumstances, a person may be arrested unannounced and taken back to their home country.
The U.S. pays for deportations.
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