By delegating the operation of detention centers to private companies, the U.S. has created a system where more deportations and longer detentions mean increased profits, giving companies a financial incentive to lobby for stricter immigration laws.
Although this review hardly scratches the surface, we can definitely see trends that have emerged since September 11.
More federal funds are available for immigration enforcement and deportations, even though those efforts seem to do almost nothing to prevent terrorism. In fact, fewer terrorists have been placed in deportation proceedings since 9/11, according to TRAC.
It's worth noting that the 9/11 terrorists entered the country on temporary visas and had authorization (if fraudulently obtained) to be in the U.S. Yet in the 11 years since the attack, we've devoted enormous resources to securing the southern border and deporting non-criminal immigrants. The leading countries of origin for people removed from the U.S. in 2011 were Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
In the run-up to the presidential election, however, as both candidates have begun to court the Latino electorate, President Obama enacted a new deferred action program, which will give an estimated 1.7 million young undocumented immigrants – 15 percent of the undocumented population – a chance to stay in the country and get a work permit. The policy shift seems to conflict with the president's broader immigration agenda, but for those who qualify, it could provide life-changing relief.
"It's the first time in decades that there's actually an affirmative benefit that you can apply for," says the New York Immigration Coalition's Hong. "Both in the impact of the benefit and the scale of application, deferred action is really one of the most positive developments of the last decade, that, otherwise, was really categorized by heavy enforcement."