"When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system. And I began by doing what I could to secure our borders. Today, we have more agents and technology deployed to secure our southern border than at any time in our history. And over the past six years, illegal border crossings have been cut by more than half."
— President Obama, November 20, 2014
Under the Obama administration, the resources that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) dedicates to security at the Southwest border are at an all-time high. Today, there are 3,000 additional Border Patrol agents along the Southwest Border, and our border fencing, unmanned aircraft surveillance systems, and ground surveillance systems have more than doubled since 2008. Taken as a whole, the additional boots on the ground, technology, and resources provided in the last six years represent the most serious and sustained effort to secure our border in our nation’s history, cutting illegal border crossings by more than half.
And this effort is producing results. From 1990 to 2007, the population of undocumented individuals in the United States grew from 3.5 million to 11 million people. Since then, the size of the undocumented population has stopped growing for the first time in decades. Border apprehensions — a key indicator of border security — are at their lowest level since the 1970s. The President’s immigration reform proposal gives law enforcement the tools they need to make our communities safer from crime.
And by enhancing our infrastructure and technology, the President’s proposal continues to strengthen our ability to remove criminals and apprehend and prosecute threats to our national security.
To build on these efforts and to ensure that our limited enforcement resources are used effectively, the President has announced the following actions:
Shifting resources to the border and recent border crossers. Over the summer, DHS sent hundreds of Border Patrol agents and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel to the Southwest border, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) reordered dockets in immigration courts to prioritize removal cases of recent border crossers. This continued focus will help keep our borders safe and secure. In addition, Secretary Johnson is announcing a new Southern Border and Approaches Campaign Plan, which will strengthen the efforts of the agencies who work to keep our border secure. And by establishing clearer priorities for interior enforcement, DHS is increasing the likelihood that people attempting to cross the border illegally will be apprehended and sent back.
Streamlining the immigration court process. DOJ is announcing a package of immigration court reforms that will address the backlog of pending cases by working with DHS to more quickly adjudicate cases of individuals who meet new DHS-wide enforcement priorities and close cases of individuals who are low priorities. DOJ will also pursue regulations that adopt best practices for court systems to use limited court hearing time as efficiently as possible.
Protecting victims of crime and human trafficking as well as workers. The Department of Labor (DOL) is expanding and strengthening immigration options for victims of crimes (U visas) and trafficking (T visas) who cooperate in government investigations. An interagency working group will also explore ways to ensure that workers can avail themselves of their labor and employment rights without fear of retaliation.
The President's Proposal
Strengthen border security and infrastructure.
The President’s proposal strengthens and improves infrastructure at ports of entry, facilitates public-private partnerships aimed at increasing investment in foreign visitor processing, and continues supporting the use of technologies that help to secure the land and maritime borders of the United States.
Combat transnational crime.
The President’s proposal creates new criminal penalties dedicated to combating transnational criminal organizations that traffic in drugs, weapons, and money, and that smuggle people across the borders. It also expands the scope of current law to allow for the forfeiture of these organizations’ criminal tools and proceeds. Through this approach, we will bolster our efforts to deprive criminal enterprises, including those operating along the Southwest border, of their infrastructure and profits.
Improve partnerships with border communities and law enforcement.
The President’s proposal expands our ability to work with our cross-border law enforcement partners. Community trust and cooperation are key to effective law enforcement. To this end, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will establish border community liaisons along the Southern and Northern borders to improve communication and collaboration with border communities, boost funding to tribal government partners to reduce illegal activity on tribal lands, and strengthen training on civil rights and civil liberties for DHS immigration officers.
Crack down on criminal networks engaging in passport and visa fraud and human smuggling.
The President’s proposal creates tough criminal penalties for trafficking in passports and immigration documents and schemes to defraud, including those who prey on vulnerable immigrants through notario fraud. It also strengthens penalties to combat human smuggling rings.