Things That Matter

The U.S. Just Saw The Lowest Number Of Undocumented Immigrants In Over A Decade

Despite current headlines about migrant caravans and an “invasion” of undocumented immigrants, the number of people living in the U.S. illegally fell to its lowest numbers in more than a decade. According to a new study from the Pew Research Center, the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. fell to 10.7 million in 2016 which is down about 1.5 million people in 2007, when an estimated peak of 12.2 undocumented immigrants were living in America.

During the span of nine years from 2007 to 2016, the illegal immigrant population reduced by 13 percent. The lowest number since 2004.

CREDIT: CREDIT: Pew Research Center

The study estimates come from figures published by sources like the Census Bureau, which tracks foreign-born people living in the U.S., along with other demographic data including death rates and legal border admissions. Not only has there been a drop in undocumented people in the U.S., the demographic of undocumented people has changed. Since the findings are based on 2016 populations, the decline in numbers can’t be credited to President Donald Trump, who took office in January 2017, and his immigration policies.

The big decline is due to a sharp decrease in the number of Mexicans entering the country.

CREDIT: CREDIT: Pew Research Center

While they still make up a bulk of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S today, migration out of Mexico has declined considerably. That may be due to a revival in job opportunities and growing economy in Mexico. In a stark contrast, the number of migrants from Central America living in the U.S. without documentation rose between 2007 and 2016, mainly due to increased violence and economic uncertainty. The number of undocumented immigrants from Central America increased by 375,000 between 2007 and 2016, to a total of 1.85 million people, the study shows.

The number of people who came to the U.S. illegally and are from South America, Europe and Canada decreased while those from the Caribbean, Asia, the Middle East and Africa rose in steady numbers.

The majority of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. have lived here for a decade or longer.

CREDIT: CREDIT: Pew Research Center

In 2007, the average length of an undocumented immigrant living in the U.S. was 8.6 years; nine years later, it has grown to an average 14.8 years. This shows that the average undocumented person in the U.S. either has been living in the country for quite some time and there are less people coming in during that same span.

D’Vera Cohn, a senior writer at Pew Research, says undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. shows how much more rooted this population is here than before.

“This is a much more rooted, established population than it was in 2007,” Ms. Cohn told the NY Times. “There are markedly fewer short-term residents and more long term residents.”

Programs like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)  and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) have protected one million undocumented people from deportation.

According to the report, 700,000 people in the U.S. who were brought to the country without documents as children have received protection from deportation through the DACA program. Additionally, 317,000 from 10 nations have received TPS, which applies to those from countries that have experienced natural disasters like Haiti.

The report notes that the The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced plans to end protections for immigrants from six nations that include El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti, which account for the vast majority of the 317,000. Those seeking asylum are also included in the numbers presented by the study.

What does this report mean when it comes to unauthorized immigration in the U.S. as a whole?

CREDIT: CREDIT: Pew Research Center

In what may be a surprise to some, the state of California saw a 550,00 decrease in unauthorized immigrants, the biggest amongst all states. While states like Louisiana, Maryland and Massachusetts saw major increases. When it comes to jobs, the number of unauthorized immigrants in the workforce was 7.8 million, which was lower in 2016 than in 2007 and they made up less than five percent of the workforce, also a drop from 2007 when it was about 5.4 percent.

Overall, the findings in the report show changing immigration trends shifting from countries like Mexico and an increase in those arriving from Central America. Those that have overstayed their visa also appear to make up a significant share of overall illegal immigration. Going forward, it’ll be interesting to see if recent immigration polices have deterred more immigrants from coming to the illegally or if more have left the country all together.


READ: Conditions In Tijuana Are Getting Worse For Those Waiting To Claim Asylum

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A San Francisco Mural Is Honoring An Undocumented Guatemalan Immigrant Who Was Unarmed And Killed By Police

Things That Matter

A San Francisco Mural Is Honoring An Undocumented Guatemalan Immigrant Who Was Unarmed And Killed By Police

cialuart / Instagram

The people of San Francisco have a lot of heart. Yes, the wealthy thrive there, and the homeless community continues to grow, but somewhere in the middle is an empowering group of fighters for justice. They do not back down but instead make their voices heard loud and clear. It’s a tight-knit alliance that is responsible for forcing change on all fronts of authority. San Franciscans are also incredibly beautiful at honoring fallen residents. 

Almost five years after 20-year-old Amilcar Perez-Lopez was gunned down by police in San Francisco, artists are honoring him with a massive mural in the Mission District.

Credit: crashgrammy / Instagram

The mural was designed and directed in community and collaboration by Carla Elana Wojczuk with, Homies Organizing the Mission to Empower Youth (HOMEY), Justice4Amilcar Coalition, Mission community, Lucía González Ippolito, and assisted by Flavia Elisa Mora; Lead Muralists: Carla Elana Wojczuk, Lucía González Ippolito, Cristian Muńoz, Anna Lisa Escobedo, Adrianna Adams, Flavia Elisa Mora (painting and poetry), Pancho Pescador; lettering: Sonia G Molin. The mural is titled “Alto al Fuego en La Misón” and the most prominent subject on the mural is Perez-Lopez, the undocumented young man from Guatemala.

On Feb. 26, 2015, Perez-Lopez was fatally shot by the SFPD, who were in plainclothes in the Mission District. The officers reported that they “opened fire to protect themselves and others from a man who was acting erratically and was armed with a knife,” the SFGate reports. Witnesses told a different story. They said Perez-Lopez was running for his life, which is why he was shot in the back. 

The Perez-Lopez investigation went on for years, and in the end, the SFPD was never charged, but Police Chief Greg Suhr did resign from his post. However, it wasn’t just because of the pushback from the Perez-Lopez investigation but from multiple fatal shootings of unarmed people at the hands of the police. His parents eventually won a settlement from the SFPD

Aside from the artful depiction of Perez-Lopez, the mural also pays tribute to Black and brown people who have died as a result of police brutality as well as people who have died on the southern border.

Credit: amaya_papaya28 / Instagram

During the year in which he was killed, Perez-Lopez “was one of the 67 Latino people killed,” the Guardian reports. The publication adds that Perez-Lopez was also one of the 58 percent who was killed and unarmed. 

“‘Why didn’t you put in Jessica Williams?’ Or, ‘Why didn’t you put in this person?’ The truth of the matter is that we just didn’t have enough space,” Ippolito told the SFWeekly. “And I wish we could include a lot more.”

Ippolito said she and the rest of the mural team were confronted with the fact they didn’t have enough space to put every person that lost their life because of the SFPD. The mural is already one of the largest murals “to be painted in the Latino Cultural Corridor in a decade,” according to the local publication. 

“That was the hardest part,” Anna Lisa Escobedo, another artist on this project, said to SF Weekly. “From the community, a lot of people were saying, ‘We are missing this person, this person, this person.’ We could do five more murals and focus on people who had the same circumstances, and that is sad.”

This isn’t the first artwork that has honored Perez-Lopez.

Credit: msmichellemeow / Instagram

His painted portrait was seen throughout the streets of San Francisco when residents demanded justice in his death. A couple of months after he was killed, artist YESCKA painted a mural that included Perez-Lopez. The mural was painted on the sidewall of the gallery Red Poppy Art House, which is located just blocks two from where Perez-Lopez was shot and killed. 

The mural by Ippolito is pretty remarkable because of its use of bright colors, and the inclusion of Mexican motifs, both the Guatemalan and San Francisco landscape, and Perez-Lopez in his signature Giants baseball cap. But the mural is also representative of an altar of sorts. Perez-Lopez is pictured inside an altar, and the rest of the people that are honored in the painting are seen on prayer candles. 

The other deceased individuals on the mural include Roxana Hernandez, Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez, and Oscar and Valeria Martinez, who died either on the southern border or in ICE custody. 

Credit: cialuart / Instagram

This mural is a perfect addition to the many outstanding paintings that the city of San Francisco has to offer. 

One of my favorite things to do when I am back in the Mission is to go on a walking tour to gaze at the stunning murals that depict the people of San Francisco, but also the history of our community.  

READ: One Of The Major Artists In The Chicano Art Movement Has Died At 75

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New Jersey’s Governor Says He’ll Sign Bill Allowing Undocumented Residents Access To Drivers Licenses

Things That Matter

New Jersey’s Governor Says He’ll Sign Bill Allowing Undocumented Residents Access To Drivers Licenses

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Undocumented migrants in the United States and other Global North countries make a significant contribution to the economy but they often are left out of key economic areas and industries. Among the most basic things that a worker needs to perform certain jobs is a drivers license. Without it job prospects in most industries are pretty limited. Distances in the United States, particularly in the middle of the country and states such as New Jersey tend to be vast and commuting by public transport is not always the best option, or even feasible. Working parents and other people caring for a family member (such as an ageing mother or father, or someone with a disability) often need to pack a lot of activities in a day, and using a car is the only possible way for them to be able to make ends meet. 

So a very possible change in New Jersey law would make a world of difference for undocumented migrants and their families. 

So yes, New Jersey might start providing drivers licenses to undocumented migrants, and this is great and a welcome development towards economic assimilation.

Credit: New Jersey Advanced Media

The New Jersey State Assembly Judiciary Committee held a hearing Monday at the Statehouse in Trenton to discuss the possibility of pro providing undocumented migrants with drivers licenses. As you can imagine, the issue has been quickly politicized and the Latino community has been lobbying for a positive outcome.

This is of course a highly contentious issue in a state that has swung from blue to red and blue again, and where factory workers, many of which are reticent to migration, are an important segment of the electorate. As explained by Assemblywoman Anette Quijano, D-Union” “We know this legislation will change thousands of lives in the Garden State, a state with both urban, suburban and rural communities that require residents to drive a car to get from point A to point B.”

Another key benefit of this bill is that it will make roads safer, as currently there are people driving without a license and without having passed a test that ensures that rules and sings are understood by everyone on the road. More than 30 people gave their testimony, and as reported by NJ.COM they “shared stories of the fear they face when seeing a cop in the rearview mirror, whether they are completing a mundane task like grocery shopping or attending a crucial doctors appointment. And how their paychecks go to fighting traffic tickets and court fees”. 

Chants of “Si, se puede!” and “Licensias si, promesas no!” were heard as the hearing was being held.

Credit: Trasport Topics

Advocates for the bill were as young as 9-years-old. David Cuautle, a young boy whose parents cannot drive him, spoke truth in his testimony: “I’m sick and tired of you guys making these promises for at least 18 years. Are you going to wait until I am 18 ? It’s been a long time. And you think this is rough? This is rough for everybody.”

The exclusion of migrants from key activities has a huge effect on their daily lives and also limits the prospects of their families for assimilation and for socioeconomic advancement. And David got a response that gives hope to those hoping that the bill will be passed: “David, you are absolutely right. And David, I’m sick and tired as well of promises not being kept.” These words were said by state Assemblywoman Carol Murphy, D-Burlington, a co-sponsor of the measure.

Opponents to the bill fear that having a license will allow undocumented migrants to vote (which fuels Trump’s conspiracy theory of “millions” of votes having been cast by undocumented migrants). They also claim that this measure could increase human trafficking, which also resonates with racial stereotypes pushed by conservatives. 

The measure is supported by the New Jersey governor, Democrat Phil Murphy.

Credit: MADD.org

The bill needs to go through three hurdles before coming into effect: the State Assembly, the State Senate and finally get signed by the governor, who has said that he will definitely sign it if it comes to him and he has the last word. But just how many people would be affected positively by the bill? About half a million, a huge number by all standards.

As NJ.COM reports: “There are more than 466,000 undocumented immigrants of driving age in New Jersey, according to a 2018 study by left-leaning think tank NJ Policy Perspective”. That is whole lot of people. The bill would also generate jobs and revenue for the roads and transport authorities. The bill has been on the cards for years, but hasn’t advanced this far before. There is hope but in policy everything can change in a minute. 

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