Illegal immigration is down, successful asylum bids are up and the immigration courts are “failing.”

The first two stories were among the week’s big immigration news stories, along with the federal Justice Department suing Sheriff Joe Arpaio for records as part of a civil rights investigation (the Maricopa County sheriff said in response “Now it’s time to take the gloves off”), a report that the Obama administration may not as tough on employers who hire illegal immigrants as promised and Border Patrol agents in the northern part of the country board Greyhound buses and Amtrak trains to check the immigration status of passengers.

Arizona again received a lot of media attention, much of it related to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. The incumbent froze during a televised gubernatorial race debate, but she corrected her previous statements that headless bodies stemming from Mexican drug-related violence have been found in the Arizona desert.

Meanwhile, The National Guard began to deploy in Arizona where illegal immigrant deaths this summer are the highest they’ve been since 2005. A federal appellate court overturned a littering conviction, ruling in a 2-1 decision that jugs of water left in the desert for migrants was not garbage.

Elsewhere along the border, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that unmanned surveillance aircraft will now monitor the whole Southwest border. And “birth tourism” is only a tiny portion of immigrant babies.

Controversy may swirl around water jugs, Sheriff Joe “Washington’s new whipping boy” Arpaio, and asking train passengers for their papers, but the Pew Hispanic Center’s report lends itself to more interpretation and analysis.

The Pew report shows that illegal immigration declined for the first time in about two decades. What that means for efforts to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws is open to interpretation, as The Atlantic points out.

What wasn’t necessarily news was a Washington Times opinion piece about the state of the immigration courts, and what the Obama administration is doing to address the growing backlog.

The op-ed was written by Mark H. Metcalf, a former immigration judge, who contests that the Obama administration is ignoring immigration law by prioritizing the removal of criminals over illegal immigrants without criminal records. He also argues that the nation’s immigration court system is a weak institution that needs to be reformed as well.

Metcalf suggests he is not anti-immigrant by writing that the heated immigration debate “leave untold stories that affirm America’s singluar past – and a vast, optimistic future.”

Nearly one in 10 of those who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan were immigrants. Indeed, the first serviceman to die in Iraq was not one of America’s native sons, but one she adopted. Marine Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez, an orphan raised in Guatemala’s slums, died in freedom’s cause at Umm Qasr on March 21, 2003. His sacrifice echoes history.

While this echoes previous reports of Lance Cpl. Gutierrez, Metcalf omits one detail that’s been known for years: the fallen marine entered the country illegally.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Andrew Becker is a reporter for Reveal, covering border, national and homeland security issues, as well as weapons and gun trafficking. He has focused on waste, fraud and abuse – with stories ranging from border corruption to the expanding use of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles, from the militarization of police to the intersection of politics and policy related to immigration, from terrorism to drug trafficking. Becker's reporting has appeared in The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Newsweek/The Daily Beast and on National Public Radio and PBS/FRONTLINE, among others. He received a master's degree in journalism from UC Berkeley. Becker is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.