The history of immigration to the United States is a long one, stretching almost right back to when the land was founded.
The nation experienced especially major waves of immigration during the colonial era, the first part of the 19th century and from the 1880s to 1920 – and it is arguably experiencing another one now, with the number of people trying to cross the US border now at the highest in 21 years. Certainly, the topic has never been far from the news over the past few years, with President Trump’s desire to build a wall along the Mexico border providing much material to keep journalists and commentators busy.
Current Vice President, Kamala Harris, has released plans to address the root causes of migration amid the surge in illegal U.S.-Mexico border crossings. The strategy, which is available on the White House website and which immigration lawyers, Optimus Law, have digested in full, provided the topic for one of our blogs last year. Therefore, let’s return to the topic and take stock of where the US is now with its immigration issues – and look forward to likely immigration trends that are likely to happen over the next 12 months.
Recent US immigration snapshot
The number of immigrants in the U.S. – both illegal and legal – has hit a record high, with a recent report showing 46.2 million foreign-born people are living in the country.
According to the Center for Immigration Studies report on the Census Bureau’s monthly Current Population Study (CPS), immigrants made up 14.2 per cent of the U.S population as of November 2021. This figure is the highest the U.S. immigration population has been in 111 years. It is also triple the share of the population since 1970 and double since 1990.
Certainly, in 2021, the United States experienced the highest number of arrests in history by the Border Patrol at the Mexican border, a dramatic decline in deportations (including the deportation of convicted criminals), and the granting of work permits and Social Security numbers to an estimated one million illegal immigrants.
The Covid effect
The ongoing Covid pandemic continues to place extra pressure on the US immigration services.
The number of coronavirus infections among immigrants detained at US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centres has surged by 520 per cent since the start of 2022.
As of Thursday, January 13th, 1,766 immigrants were being monitored or isolated at ICE detention facilities due to confirmed coronavirus infections, a more than six-fold jump from January 3, when there were 285 active cases, according to a report by CBS News reported, citing government statistics.
The number of detainees with active Covid-19 cases represents 8 per cent of the 22,000 immigrants ICE is currently holding in its network of 200 detention centres, county jails and for-profit prisons, according to the report.
US immigration predictions for the next 12 months
Immigration will remain at the top of the US news columns during the next year, with the eyes of the world watching how the situation will be dealt with.
Therefore, we have done some research to find out what some of the likely key developments are set to be during the next year.
- The US Center for Immigration Studies predicts that the level of immigration (legal and illegal together) will continue to increase under the Biden Administration, after falling during the Trump years, even before Covid hit. As a result, the overall size of the foreign-born population will continue to grow rapidly. It hit a record 46.2 millionin November of 2021, based on the monthly Current Population Survey (CPS). While there will be variation from month to month, the overall size of foreign-born population will hit a new record high in the CPS in the coming year.
- The US The US Center for Immigration Studies also reports that Border Patrol apprehensions at the Southwest border are running at all-time highs, with hundreds of thousands of aliens evading agents and entering the United States. This national-security and human-rights disaster at the Southwest border is likely to continue unabated during the early part of this year.
- Forbes outlines how the Biden administration’s latest regulatory plans reveal that it will continue to reform the H-1B visa program for professional workers, including raising the wages of those workers. According to projections of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), other upcoming changes to the H1B visa program will:
- Redefine the H-1B employer-employee relationship.
- Establish new guidelines for employer site visits.
- Clarify rules for F-1 students awaiting a change of status to H-1B.
- Clarify the requirement that an amended or new H-1B visa petition be filed if there are material changes to employment, including a new worksite location.
- A previous attempt to increase U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS)
fees for various immigration applications was struck down by a federal court in September 2020. However, there is evidence that the USCIS is not working on a sound financial footing and needs more funds to process backlogged applications. For these reasons, Forbes predicts that in January 2022, the Department of State is expected to raise visa application filing fees at consulates.
- Forbes also predicts that as the pandemic lifts Consulates will reopen and need to double down on visa processing, implementing initiatives to catch up on backlogs. Emphasis will be in increasing efficiency in processing, including more online video interviews. Increases in government fees should result in more workers coming on stream to deal with the heavy demand for quicker processing of applications.