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Migration Information Source Releases Special Issue on the Unauthorized
Press Release
Friday, September 2, 2005

Migration Information Source Releases Special Issue on the Unauthorized

In advance of Labor Day and President Bush’s response to declarations of emergency in border states, the Migration Information Source has just released a Special Issue on the Unauthorized. Articles examine enforcement efforts, characteristics of the unauthorized, and legalization programs in the United States and Europe. The Special Issue also provides a side-by side comparison of current legislative proposals for immigration reform. Highlights of the issue include:

Sharp Decline in Investigations of Employers Hiring Unauthorized Workers 
Author Peter Brownell finds sharp declines in enforcement of employer sanctions over the past 10 to 15 years, with data showing:

  • Audits of businesses dropped 77 percent from a high of almost 10,000 in FY 1990 to less than 2,200 in FY 2003.
  • In the same period, employer warnings for minor violations declined by 62 percent from a peak of nearly 1,300 warnings to 479.
  • Final Orders fining employers for serious violations show a strong downward trend, dropping 82 percent from a peak of 1,000 in FY 1991 to a total of 124 in FY 2003.
  • The total dollar value of fines remained fairly stable in the early-1990s and declined in the second half of the decade, peaking at $3.1 million in FY 1996 and dropping to $1.2 million in FY 1999.

Mr. Brownell also examines some of the difficulties of enforcing employer sanctions, including a government focus on border rather than interior enforcement as well as concerns about employers using immigration law to retaliate against unauthorized employees who attempt to organize or assert workplace rights.

Spotlight on US Immigration Enforcement 
MPI Associate Policy Analyst David Dixon finds a decrease in arrests and removals from fiscal years 1997 to 2003, and an increase in detentions within the last few years.

  • Apprehensions: Immigration officials made about one million apprehensions in FY 2003, with Mexican citizens accounting for nine out of every 10 of these apprehensions.

The number of apprehensions reached an all-time peak of 1.8 million in FY 2000, and decreased by 42 percent (or 800,000 arrests) between FY 2000 and FY 2003.

The Tucson, Arizona sector accounted for two of every five Border Patrol apprehensions in FY 2003, followed by San Diego (with 12 percent) and El Centro, California (with 10 percent).

  • Detentions: In FY 2003, nearly a quarter of a million individuals (231,500) were detained – an average of 21,000 per day -- representing an increase of 15 percent from the year before.
  • Removals: Voluntary departure accounted for more than four of every five removals in FY 2003, with the remaining 17 percent being formally removed.

Removals reached a peak of almost 1.9 million in FY 2000, and then dropped 42 percent to 1.1 million by 2003, with voluntary departures accounting for most of the decrease.

This Special Issue will be highlighted at a briefing in Washington, D.C.:

The Unauthorized Population: A Closer Look at the Hard Issues 
Migration Information Source and 
Independent Task Force on Immigration and America’s Future 

September 6, 2005, 3:30- 5:00 p.m.

This event marks the release of the Migration Information Source's September Special Issue on the Unauthorized and the release of three publications prepared for the Independent Task Force on Immigration and America’s Future.


Peter Brownell, a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Berkeley, will discuss his Source article,  The Declining Enforcement of Employer Sanctions.”

Victor Cerda, Partner at Tew Cardenas, and former Counsel to the Assistant Secretary of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and former Acting Director of the Office of Detention and Removal Operations at ICE, will outline the priorities and obstacles ICE faces in carrying out its detention and removal mission. 

Demetrios G. Papademetriou, MPI President, will discuss three publications prepared for the Task Force. They are Lessons from the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986; Restoring Integrity to the United States Immigration System: A Personal Vision; and Legalization: A Comparative Perspective.

Doris Meissner, Task Force Director and MPI Senior Fellow, will moderate the event.

Where: Migration Policy Institute, 1400 16 th Street, NW, Suite 300, Washington, D.C.

RSVP: Please click here to RSVP. For questions, call Lisa Dixon at 202-266-1929.

The Migration Information Source Special Issue is available online September 1 at www.migrationinformation.org.

The Independent Task Force on Immigration and America’s Future, a bipartisan panel of prominent leaders from key sectors concerned with immigration, aims to generate sound information and workable policy ideas. Former Senator Spencer Abraham (R-MI) and former Congressman Lee Hamilton (D-IN) serve as Task Force co-chairs, and the panel's work is directed by MPI Senior Fellow Doris Meissner, the former Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The Task Force publications will be available online following the event at: