Immigration- The issue of 2016 that fell off the radar in 2020
By Cassandra Drumond
San Francisco. Immigration was a topic discussed in-depth among many policy makers in 2016, but now is only slightly mentioned and no in-depth solutions have been presented.
Ali Noorani is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Immigration Forum, author of “There Goes the Neighborhood” and host of the podcast “Only in America.” Noorani points to studies conducted by the Public Religion Research institute, which is one of the most effective research organizations looking at American’s attitudes. They have done an American values survey for the past 10 years looking at a range of topics, trying to understand the complexity of the public instead of just two opposing parties. Their goal is to understand where specific religious groups stand on a variety of topics.
Ali Noorani explains, “In 2016, the American values survey found that ‘Over 4 in 10 Americans said immigration was an issue of critical importance’ Then, Trump really conflated the idea of terrorism and immigration. Then another survey was done in 2020, which was just released, and found that the fear of terrorism as a defining issue dropped from 70% in 2016 to 45% in 2020. What is important to voters now is COVID-19 and the economy.” Noorani continues, “So much of the debate for the next few days will be focused on left vs right, but the more important conversation that should be had, and that has been largely neglected is the role of immigrants in small town America, rural and suburban places. For example, Fort Bend county in Texas, the most diverse county and has a big Asian and Latino community. They have voted and had their voices heard. There are many important stories to be telling outside of large cities.”
Alex Nowrasteh, Immigration Policy Analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity mentions another important point about immigration- deaths at immigration facilities. Nowrasteh explains, “Death in ICE detention facilities has had a sharp increase in the 2020 fiscal year (ending in September 2020). It is 21 people up, compared to only 8 people in 2019. However, the amount of people admitted to ICE was lower 2020, but there was still more than twice the amount of deaths. In 2019, 511,000 people were admitted to immigration facilities, while in 2020 only 177,000 were admitted. We see a smaller pool of people but much larger number of deaths. This is the second highest number on record, only other year was in 2004, when they started keeping stats on deaths in immigrant facilities.”
Nowrasteh also mentions there have been unfortunate changes in the refugee and asylum system with the current administration, “Compared to 2016, the number of refugees admitted in 2019 were down by 85% and in this year, are down even further and we suspect it will be even lower next year. There are new caps on refugees; they say the capacity is 18,000, but only let in 11,000 and will constantly under admit. The main justification we heard is national security, particularly around Muslims, but the likelihood of being killed by a refugee is one in 3.8 billion. The last refugee terrorist attack was in the late 1970s and three people were killed. People are much more likely to be killed by a regular homicide.”
Juan Escalante is an undocumented immigrant, DACA recipient, who has worked on immigration issues for the past 15 years. After high school, thanks to the DACA program Escalante was able to continue his studies and ultimately get a master’s degree. This is the case for more than 700,00 DACA recipients. Escalante explains, “They have been contributing to the United States, not just through taxes and labor, but by bringing their values to society and representing the best of their culture. Unfortunately, what we have been from this administration is continued attacks against DACA recipients. There have been many intents to shrink the program and we have seen relentless attack on this community. It looks like for the DACA program, in my view, under a second term under the Trump administration, has the potential of repealing of the program and it may ultimately go away. Those under it could be subject to deportation. We may see other proposals that may include DACA into another plan, in order to pass it through congress, under a different agenda.” Escalante and others agree it is not enough to just elect a president; the narrative around immigration should change and instead of viewing it as a right versus left issue, it should be seen as an area where people and policymakers can come to a consensus together.