When an individual is placed into immigration custody or removal proceedings in the United States, significant financial costs immediately begin to accumulate to themselves and to their household. These costs can be divided into direct costs (i.e., money and wealth that are directly lost or transferred as an outcome of the immigration-related arrest); and indirect costs (i.e., wealth and income that disappear due to the loss of employment and/or the loss of related economic opportunity).
The University of Arizona’s Binational Migration Institute has released a new report titled “The Immigration Dragnet and the Dispossession of Household and Community Wealth in the United States.” The report summarizes new, original data on the financial costs experienced by established U.S. households as a direct outcome of an immigration arrest.
The report draws on 18-months of data collected through interviews with 125 households representing 519 individuals resident in Pima County, Arizona. Funding support was provided by the National Science Foundation.
The main findings of the report include:
An immigration arrest costs a U.S. household an average of more than $24,000 in direct financial costs, lost income, and lost income opportunity.
- 80% of households in the research sample had at least one US citizen or lawful permanent resident, while 73% of total household members were either a US citizen or LPR. This means that the financial hardships generated by an immigration arrest principally impact on US citizens and those lawfully present in the country.
- 56% of the immigration arrests documented in the report were initiated by a local law enforcement agency. More than 78% of arrests initiated by local law enforcement were the result of some routine interaction involving no allegation of criminal activity.
- The daily costs of detention (including lost wages, the costs involved in visitation, and direct monetary support) absorbed by a family increase by roughly 200% when a loved one is held in detention for longer than 72 hours.
- 73% of households took on long-term debt to cope with costs associated with an immigration arrest, while close to half of households (47%) liquidated accumulated savings, or assets such as homes and vehicles (44% of households).
- The financial costs of an immigration arrest have long-term, multigenerational impacts. Subjects reported reduced educational performance or attainment of a higher degree (34% of households); anxiety, depression or stress-related mental health issues (75% of households); health impacts (15% of households); eviction or housing instability (24% of households); and divorce or the loss of child custody (9% of households).
The report sheds light on how an immigration arrest siphons wealth away from already vulnerable US households and communities, reproducing long-term socio-economic inequality.
The report concludes with an extensive set of policy recommendations. At the local level, these include measures to end cooperation between local police and federal immigration authorities, and to marshal resources to promote the financial wellbeing of all local constituents, citizen and non-citizen alike. At the federal level, these include measures of immigration reform that include a categorical end to administrative detention for all non-citizens, and easing visa requirements to support the goals of family unity and re-unification. Finally, the report includes recommendations that can be implemented informally at the community level.