Now that 2011 is ended, it is time to look back at some of the top immigration trends and issues of the year:
- Concerns about federal immigration laws led some states in 2011 to create their own immigration laws. Florida, Georgia, Utah, Alabama, and South Carolina all passed their own legislation to address illegal immigration, in some cases making it possible for authorities to stop anyone they felt was in the country illegally to check documentation. The federal government hit back, as did lobbyists, questioning the legality of the laws. The debate will likely continue into 2013.
- Continued attempts at the Dream Act. Some legislators have been supporting the Dream Act, which would allow the children of undocumented immigrants to seek legal status. There has been heated debate about the proposed legislation, so it has not passed yet, but lobbyists and some legislators still hope to get some version passed.
- Debates over border issues. A number of debates have arisen about the security of the US border. Some legislators and politicians insist that more fences need to be built and that more needs to be done to protect the border. Others insist that the Obama administration has done a good job of securing the border, noting that enforcement efforts at the US border have never been higher in the history of the US, with more than 1 million immigrants deported over the past three years due to criminal convictions.
- Problems with agricultural workers. Some experts estimate that up to 70% of agricultural workers are undocumented workers. As the US has worked to crack down on illegal immigration, growers and farmers have been having problems finding workers to help with agricultural work. Many growers also have expressed concerns that current rules for agricultural workers are too strict and complicated and do not help farmers.
- Issues detaining skilled immigrants. According to New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg, not enough is being done to attract and to retain talented and educated immigrants in the US, which may be making the US less competitive in the world economy.
- Local authorities are increasingly being asked to help federal officials crack down on immigration issues. Federal agencies have been creating information-sharing initiatives to ensure that local law enforcement has information about anyone in the country illegally – and have been seeking to have local law enforcement share information about undocumented immigrants. However, the initiatives have in some cases led to miscommunication and mistakes. As well, local law enforcement officials have expressed concerns that such efforts could make undocumented immigrants more fearful of police, making it harder for police to crack down on crime.