Immigration by the numbers: White House data sheds light on 'broken system'

Since 2016, more than 110,000 UACs released into interior US

By Brianna Volz - Web producer
Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security reports that nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their parents since a new policy over illegal immigrants took effect in April.

WASHINGTON - While many are upset over the Trump administration's immigration policy, the White House is defending its decisions, providing data they said say supports the reason for their changes.

According to White House officials, the immigration system has too many loopholes that prevent what they call "common sense" enforcement.

The legal loopholes allow many immigrants who illegally made their way into the country and were apprehended to later be released.

[RELATED: Sessions on border separations: 'We're doing the right thing' | Children, parents are separated at the border. Here's what we know]

Here are the numbers, according to the White House, that shed light on what the administration is calling a "broken system":

  • Since the beginning of fiscal year 2016, more than 110,000 "unaccompanied alien children" (UACs) have been released into the interior of the U.S., according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • From April 2017 to April 2018, the number of UACs at ports of entry increased by 636 percent.
  • From April 2017 to 2018, the number of UACs taken into custody by Border Patrol officials increased by 331 percent.
  • Only 3.4 percent of the unaccompanied children illegally encountered at the border in fiscal year 2014 had been removed or returned by the 2017 fiscal year.
  • A total of 78,000 UAC cases are still pending in immigration courts at this time, which is up from less than 35,000 in the 2009 fiscal year.
  • About 90 percent of removal orders filed against UACs each year follow one’s failure to appear at a hearing. 
  • Removal orders against UACs based on failure to appear at hearings have increased more than 1,000 percent since the 2009 fiscal year.

According to White House officials, gangs like MS-13 have used the increasing number of unattended children illegally at the borders as an opportunity to recruit. Of the 274 MS-13 members and affiliates arrested in federal, state and local "Operation Matador" entered the U.S. as UACs.

The White House also said there are loopholes in the country's asylum laws, making them subject to exploitation and contributors to major spikes in recent asylum claims.

Here's a list of data released by the White House backing the administration's claims:

  • Current law sets an easily met credible fear standard, which allows aliens who make meritless asylum claims to remain in the United States for years while they litigate their cases.
  • The number of arriving immigrants claiming credible fear has jumped to one out of every 10, up from one out of every 100 before 2011. 
  • Since the 2009 fiscal year, the number of immigration cases originating from a credible fear finding has dramatically increased, while the percentage of cases ultimately granted asylum has dropped significantly. 
  • The Executive Office for Immigration Review has over 312,000 cases with pending asylum applications. 
  • Backlog in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services affirmative asylum process has dramatically increased by more than 1,900 percent since the end of the 2012 fiscal year.
  • The number of asylum claims received in the 2017 fiscal year was the highest annual number of claims in more than 20 years. 

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, the term "asylum" refers to a form of protection available to people who meet the legal definition of a refugee, are already in the United States or are seeking admission at a port of entry.

Asylum can be applied for in the U.S. regardless of an applicant's country of origin or their current immigration status, according to the government website. Learn more about asylum status here.

Leaders in Florida and across the country from both parties have called on the administration to make changes to the policy that would immediately end the separation of children and families at the border.

[RELATED: Florida officials, others react to immigration policy]

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, both Democrats, were prohibited Tuesday from entering a Miami-area facility housing immigrant children.

Wasserman Schultz said she had been told she would need to make a request to visit the facility two weeks in advance. The congresswoman said that policy "continues to smack of cover up."

[READ: Florida lawmakers kept from entering facility housing immigrant children]

Nelson called said "they are obviously hiding something" and that he will raise the issue in the Senate.

Also on Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted in opposition to the separation of families.

"Let's change the law so we can hold families together while awaiting expedited hearings," Rubio wrote.

See more reaction from local leaders and officials throughout the state.

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