Journalism in the Public Interest

The Best In-Depth Reporting on Immigration (#MuckReads)

We’ve rounded up the some of the best recent reporting on immigration — from the surging numbers of Central Americans crossing the border to visas available only to wealthy foreigners.

Undocumented immigrant Katherine Taberes, right, watches Obama give a speech on immigration Jan. 29, 2013, at a gathering in New York City. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

President Obama reiterated his call for Congress to pass an immigration reform bill in his State of the Union address Tuesday, something both chambers are already working on. A bipartisan band of senators announced plans to tackle the issue two weeks ago, and a bipartisan House of Representatives effort, long cloaked in secrecy, is also in the works

With that in mind, we’ve rounded up the some of the best recent reporting on immigration — from the surging numbers of Central Americans crossing the border to visas available only to wealthy foreigners. 

Leave your recommendations for in-depth immigration reporting in the comments below, or tweet us with #MuckReads. 

Unwanted at Home, Free to Strike Again, The Boston Globe, December 2012

Huang Chen, an illegal Chinese immigrant, went to prison after he assaulted Qian Wu in 2006. But four years later, he was able to attack her again. The reason? Chen was one of “more than 8,500 detainees convicted of murder, rape and other crimes” that Immigration and Customs Enforcement has released over the last four years, usually without informing their victims or the public. The story is the first in a blockbuster investigation of immigrant detention by The Boston Globe. The second details the secretive prison system that holds more than 10,000 immigrants without criminal records; the third goes inside the country’s equally secretive immigration courts, which deport more than 160,000 people each year.

 U.S. Grows an Industrial Complex Along the Border, NPR, September 2012

The federal government has spent about $219 billion on immigration enforcement — “roughly the cost of the entire space shuttle program.” The money has fuelled what Rep. Hal Rogers, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, calls “a sort of mini industrial complex.” The federal government has launched three separate high-tech border tower systems since 1997, none of which work the way they were supposed to. It spends $5 million a day detaining illegal immigrants. Hundreds of aircraft patrol the each day. All told, the federal government employs about 80,000 people in immigration enforcement.

A Boom Behind Bars, Bloomberg Businessweek, March 2011

The tougher immigration policies of the last decade have led to a boom for private prison contractors like the Corrections Corporation of America, a public company that detains about 1,000 alleged illegal immigrants in its Houston facility alone. The company, whose stock has risen in recent years, “has been accused of lobbying for policies that would fill its cells,” including Arizona’s 2010 immigration law.

Better Lives for Mexicans Cut Allure of Going North, The New York Times, July 2011

Illegal immigration from Mexico has plunged in recent years. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, “fewer than 100,000 illegal border-crossers and visa-violators from Mexico settled in the United States in 2010, down from about 525,000 annually from 2000 to 2004.” The factors behind the slump include the declining Mexican birthrate, a more dangerous border, an increase in the number of agricultural-worker visas granted to Mexicans and better education and employment opportunities in Mexico.

The story is the first in Times reporter Damien Cave’s yearlong “Immigration Upended” series.

The New Border: Illegal Immigration’s Shifting Frontier, ProPublica, December 2012

As the number of illegal immigrants from Mexico declines, U.S. border agents are catching more and more immigrants from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Many of them have fled violence in their home countries by crossing Mexico’s porous southern border. In response, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s advisers have announced plans boost border security and create a Mexican border patrol.

Discordant Band Plays Together on Immigration, The Los Angeles Times, February 2013

How a few key senators revived immigration reform in the weeks after the election. (For more on how the politics of immigration are shifting, check out Ryan Lizza’s post-election piece in The New Yorker.)

Why Americans Won’t Do Dirty Jobs, Bloomberg Businessweek, November 2011

When Alabama passed a tough new immigration law in 2011, one of the big selling points “was that it would free up jobs that Republican Governor Robert Bentley said immigrants had stolen from recession-battered Americans.” But Randy Rhodes, the president of a catfish-processing plant in Uniontown, Ala., said he couldn’t find workers for 158 positions he needs to fill since his Guatemalan workforce left the state. Locals wouldn’t take them — even though the unemployment rate in the county was 18.2 percent.

Watching Brethren Vanish, The Los Angeles Times, December 2011

Alabama’s immigration law had an impact on more than catfish processing. In Tallassee, Ala., the Hispanic share of Riverside Heights Baptist Church’s congregation plunged after the law’s passage, leaving many of the white churchgoers feeling conflicted. "I'd hate for them to go back to what they came from," said Tommy Graham, 68, a retired firefighter. "All of them are good workers, and not working jobs that white people would take." (The story is part of the “New Latino South” series.)

Wealthy Immigrants Can Invest Way to Visas, The Seattle Times, December 2011

Wealthy immigrants have an option for coming to the U.S. that others don’t: they can receive visas if they invest at least $1 million in an American enterprise (or $500,000 in a rural area or one with a high unemployment rate). In Washington State, the money invested through the visa program has helped to finance everything from a Seattle office building to utility-line extensions for a new BMW plant.

Frustrated Migrants Go Farther North for Work, The Washington Post, January 2013

Oscar Reyes used to pay smugglers to take him across the U.S. border each spring, but now he flies Air Canada. Reyes is one of almost 16,000 Mexican laborers who participated in Canada’s temporary worker program in 2012. “I come home loaded with money, and I don’t have to worry about anything,” he said.

Undocumented Life Is a Hurdle as Immigrants Seek a Reprieve, The New York Times, October 2012

A new program allows illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children a chance to stay in the country. All they have to do is prove they arrived before they turned 16, have been here continuously for five years, are under 31 as of June 15, 2012, and have graduated from high school (or are still in school or have a G.E.D.). But proving all that can be hard for illegal immigrants who have been living here for years without driver’s licenses, credit cards or much else that could serve as a paper trail.

Young and Alone, Facing Court and Deportation, The New York Times, August 2012

More and more young people are crossing the border illegally, even as the total number of immigrants declines. More than 11,000 unaccompanied minors were placed in deportation proceedings in the first eight months of 2012. They include children like Juan David Gonzalez, 6, who appeared in immigration court last year without a parent or a lawyer after crossing the border illegally. (In immigration court, the government won’t provide a lawyer if the defendant cannot afford one the way it does in other courts.)

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PBS’s “Homeland: Immigration in America,” (July 2012) produced in Missouri, is three one-hour segments (Jobs, Enforcement, and Refugees) looking at the realities of how individual stories fit into the larger systems and policies.

I am against Amnesty. The border is not secure just ask those of us in Arizona—funny thing while in Benson, AZ I watched crosser’s walk right along while a border patrol agent ate a sandwich in his SUV.

We house in jails and such 1000’s on our dole. And yes according to Janet N. they are releasing them as fast as they can with green cards in hand. Unemployment in areas of the Central Valley of CA runs plus or minus 40% why not manage this stock of illegals where they are needed.

Mexico has no interest in controlling illegal crossings. If they are Mexicans Mexico receives dollars from remittance that are sent home by the invaders. Those from Guatemala for example are often robbed before they invade our borders again money spent in Mexico.

The U.S. needs to take a stand and levy a bundle for all who receive the prized visa’s. Strong legislation is needed although I believe much exist already its just ignored.

Obama and others state the invaders here already will have to pay a fine and back taxes. That’s a joke. If they can’t produce a record trail as you suggest pray tell just how will we calculate taxes owed. The fine is also a ruse I bet little of those will be paid..

The U.S. gov’t has zero incentive to secure the border even though I agree investment has been made in technology and buildings. With a North American Union in mind the Trans Atlantic Treaty luming it will be open borders.

Let’s also consider the impact on SS, Medicare and Access. The amnesty crowd it is said need only show 15 years of work to be eligible for SS and Medicare is this fair to the citizen who probably paid in to for 40 yrs plus. No I don’t think so.

Personally I am tired of the poor illegal attitude. Do you suppose that Obamacare is in place today in an attempt to garner some dollars from this pool?

Much needs to be addressed to protect American citizens around jobs, access to colleges and university’s before giving away slots to foreigners.

We must also acknowledge that many jobs, good jobs, went to Mexico at the expense of citizen workers here.

Come on—its time to take care of America and its citizens. We need healing and not to take in other countries down trodden.

I have often wondered as more states allow the weed to be grown and harvested if we will see more Cartel activity. You might want to check the violence already active in and around Mendocino, CA.

Mexican gangs in the U.S. are a big time problem. Citizen or invader when picked up should be sent packing immediately to their country of origin. If they just happen to be a citizen then citizenship should be revoked.

Fact is we as a nation can not afford the invader.


Feb. 14, 2013, 2:36 a.m.

Is the border secure? ...that would be a BIG NO….if it was, illegals would stop invading

total FY2012 apprehensions in the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector, 97,762, were a 65% increase over the total FY2011 apprehensions of 59,243. Continuing on, the apprehensions for the first 3 months of FY2013, in the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector, 23,814, are a 49% increase over the first 3 months of FY2012, of

total FY2012 apprehensions in the Laredo Border Patrol Sector, 44,872, were a 24% increase over the total FY2011 apprehensions of 36,053. Continuing on, the apprehensions for the first 3 months of FY2013, in the Laredo Border Patrol Sector, 10,207, are a 63% increase over the first 3 months of FY2012, of 6,257

total FY2012 apprehensions in the Del Rio Border Patrol Sector, 21,720, were a 35% increase over the total FY2011 apprehensions of 16,144. Continuing on, the apprehensions for the first 3 months of FY2013, in the Del Rio Border Patrol Sector, 4,645, are a 32% increase over the first 3 months of FY2012, of 3,524

Immigration, employment statistics, and welfare should be linked in order to understand the scope of American’s challenges.

When a person is statistically classifies as “unemployed” doesn’t mean that they don’t have income.  It often simply means that they don’t have “reportable” income. 

A simple example is an American born citizen who had “reportable” income that put him just above the poverty line, e.g. working for an international fast food franchise.  Over time, as illegal immigrants came into this country, the fast food chains hired these immigrants and were subsequently able to lower the inflation-adjusted wages below the poverty line and displaced the American born. 

As a result, the American born no longer wanted to work 40 plus hour weeks.  But it was for good reason.  They had a far better living standard by a) collecting welfare, b) and supplementing their considerable welfare benefits with non-documented cash earnings.  This has been proven over and over when the IRS performed detailed analysis. 

Unfortunately, no society can afford all of the investigations required to apprehend tax cheats.  And we prize liberty too much to do simple checks to ferret out fraud.  But to truly believe that it doesn’t exist on a massive basis is beyond the pale.

i am a Britsh citizen who lived in the U.S for over 40 yrs, all my family are there
including 6 children, i was deported to U.K for committing an aggrevated felony, i got a 16 month sentence for a first offence, i served 9 month 22 days, not knowing by pleading nolo contendre would open up the door to immigration. I was deported with no ties, no family or friends in U.K, it wasnt till i was on my way to the airport in san francisco that the immigration officer informed me that i had a life ban….. a life ban for a first offense, 5yrs, 10 yrs i could accept that but a life ban, my baby was only 2 1/2 yrs old and 4 of my children under the age of 12 ys old, my husband served in desert storm and couldnt even voice his desire for his wife and mother of his children to get a second chance, i recieved a life sentence……what happened to my human rights, my childrens rights to have their mother with them,what happened to paying your debt to society and have a second chance, im worth a second chance, Immigration is all about money, it doesnt matter if u are separated from your children, that children are living in homes with 1 parent, or that every one deserves a second chance ……….. please feel free to comment on my story, but please do not comment that i should have not have broken the law in the first place, as i said i have paid this debt, feel free to offer any advice on my situation, or any legal advice that will help me get back to my family……

Why are people complaining so much about inmigration? If your veins are not supplemented with Navajo, Cherokee or any of the original settlers’ blood, you are the product of illegal inmigration unless you tell me that taking the land by force gives you the right to keep the others out.

Martin, I see little connection now to the fact that explorers opened up this new continent. While the blight of the Native Americans was historically regrettable and many Native’s today remain in poverty—this does not mean that we must take in the masses. I have been contemplating as of late the intake of peoples and how it affects our liberty, I think it has an impact.

The real reason for all this is for the DHS (Dept. of Homeland InSecurity) to finally get the bio-metric national I.D. card. Kiss your privacy goodbye. Really, how stupid can the sheeple be to fall for this?

If a monkey had computer the monkey would make more sense talking about undocumented immigrants then wanna be “informed citizen”  I mean, you would have to be a moron to not ask the question: Who higher the undocumented immigrants? Are you telling me undocumented immigrants higher them selves? WTF? Undocumented immigrants are here because many Americans love them for the profits undocumented immigrants brings them not mention how they exploit them or how they humiliate them, but this is something you have no idea about because you watch to much CN or Fox News which on use you for rating and to make money. There are solutions to this problem it always has been here with us just ask Canada. The reason why many Americans love undocumented immigrants and why you see them fighting for them when rest wants change in Washington, is because most of them love the freedom they to evade taxes to exploit these poor desperate people and the earnings, much like what is going with the regulation on assaults weapons. You dumb asses.

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