New York State's Foreign-Born Population and Immigration Enforcement

September 29, 2022

Joanna Dreby
Jeewoo Shin


Immigration enforcement measures increased markedly over the past 20 years. In 2003, the United States federal government formally removed 159,331 individuals; by 2012, this number had risen and peaked at 407,821; and, in 2019, 262,591 foreign nationals were removed. Between 2003 and 2020, removals totaled over 5 million. These enforcement measures target foreign-born Mexicans, Hondurans, Guatemalans, and Salvadorans unequally. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has removed a higher proportion of foreign-born residents from these four countries—and a higher absolute number of individuals from these countries—than any other nations.

The way enforcement tactics disproportionally target certain foreign-born populations is socially conditioned, meaning that although the federal government sets policies that regulate immigration removals, in practice the enforcement of those policies often varies across groups, time, and geographic place of removal. New York is a traditional gateway destination for migrants, receiving large waves of immigrants throughout the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. In 2019, approximately one out of three New York City residents was foreign-born (36.2 percent), and 22.4 percent of New York State residents were. Foreign-born residents of New York are also more diverse than in most other states. Given the state’s historic and current high levels of immigration and the diversity of the state’s foreign-born population, how do different New York State foreign-born populations fare under the current US immigration enforcement regime?

In this interactive data brief, we gauge the degree to which the federal government targets foreign-born individuals from different countries and regions for removal from New York State as part of a larger study on the spillover effects of immigration enforcement policies. We first collected publicly available removal data for the state of New York for all years between 2003 and 2019. This data is drawn from the Syracuse TRAC system, which obtains removal data through Freedom of Information Act requests made to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), rather than from the DHS’ annual immigration statistics reports. This allows us to explore removal patterns by both citizenship and the state from which the individual was removed.

To calculate the rate at which foreign nationals from different countries were removed from New York State, we divided the total number of yearly removals for each country of origin by the estimated noncitizen population from that country residing in New York State, collated from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey estimates. We used population estimates of noncitizens, rather than estimates of undocumented migrants, both because they are more accurate and because all noncitizens are potentially at risk of removal. We then compared removal rates in New York to national rates for each foreign-born group.

We have created a dashboard that allows users to explore the total number of removals and the rate of removal by nationality for both New York State and the United States covering the period of 2003 through 2019. Readers can explore nearly two decades of removal trends by country of origin and also across a number of regions. Each section below includes a short overview of notable regional removal trends, a brief discussion of policies and events that may have contributed to the observed trends, and suggested possible directions for future research that can better understand these trends. We invite users to explore data trends within each region, and report both absolute removal numbers per year along with removal rates for most countries of origin and a number of regions.

Summary of Key Findings

  • Removals from New York State increased from 2003 to 2013 and then dropped across the past decade.
  • Foreign nationals from the Southern Cone (Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay) region have the highest rates of removal among Spanish-speakers in New York State, followed by those from the Andean region (Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia).
  • Foreign nationals from a number of majority Muslim nations—in Asia, Africa and the Middle East—had higher rates of removal from New York State than other groups, especially during the first decade of the century.
  • Foreign nationals from countries in Eastern Europe and the former Eastern Soviet bloc experienced higher rates of removal from New York than statewide averages.
  • Foreign nationals from Brazil had the highest rates of removal from New York across the entire period.
Percentage of Foreign National Removals, New York State and United States

  • Overview of Removals from New York State

    Taken together, the risk of removal of foreign-born noncitizens from New York State increased until 2008 and then decreased over the past decade with a low in 2015. Statewide removal rates averaged around 0.3 percent and decreased to about 0.1 percent during the past five years. Nationally, the removal rate is higher, increasing from 1.1 percent in 2003 to nearly 2.0 percent in 2013. Since then, the national removal rate dropped but then rebounded to 1.7 percent in 2019. These overall removal rates of all foreign-born noncitizens in the United States and in New York State establish a baseline for understanding which foreign-national groups have been disproportionately targeted for removal.

    The downward trend in removal rates in New York State since 2008 can be interpreted in two ways. First, following the attacks of September 11, 2001, there were increases in spending on enforcement nationwide and in the reorganization of what was formerly Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) into three agencies (ICE, CBP and USCIS) under the Department of Homeland Security. States, like New York, increased involvement in immigration regulation both by having more DHS officials assigned to the state and through greater cooperation between some local law enforcement entities and the federal government. This may help to explain the earlier increase in removals rates, particularly among certain foreign-born groups, as we discuss further in other data sections. Second, access to lawyers often prevents or postpones removal orders. Given the history of migration to New York and well-established migrant-serving organizations throughout the city and state, foreign-born individuals in New York State may have had greater access to legal services than elsewhere. Notably, in 2012, the state founded the Office for New Americans whose mission includes answering immigration and naturalization questions and providing legal referrals. Although more research is needed, lower rates of removal during recent years may signal successful mobilization of resources to support foreign-born individuals in the state’s immigration court system, a population that has increased by 2 percent over the past 20 years.

    Beyond these rates of removal, absolute numbers of removals by country of origin suggest a greater diversity of groups affected by enforcement in New York than nationwide. As the table below shows, nationally the top 10 countries of removal between 2003 and 2020 all lie in the Western Hemisphere, and all but two are Spanish-speaking countries. In New York State, the top 10 citizenship groups include four non-Spanish speaking countries and two outside of the Western Hemisphere. Given these seemingly different profiles of removals, which groups in New York have been disproportionately targeted? Readers can navigate the other data sections for more detailed information on enforcement for foreign-born groups from different countries and regions.

    Top Ten Countries of Removal in Absolute Numbers (US)
    2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
    Mexico Total Removals 107,449 119,032 110,189 119,309 178,185 254,282 283,003 269,365 284,863 288,395 243,258 179,575 146,405 149,784 124,807 136,614 124,578
    % of Pop. Removed 1.37% 1.48% 1.29% 1.32% 1.95% 2.85% 3.19% 2.98% 3.21% 3.35% 2.83% 2.09% 1.76% 1.81% 1.60% 1.80% 1.74%
    Guatemala Total Removals 7,807 9,593 14,404 20,466 27,345 30,580 31,117 31,617 32,974 40,610 47,688 54,466 33,325 33,947 33,294 49,978 54,553
    % of Pop. Removed 1.91% 2.17% 2.90% 3.63% 5.31% 5.43% 5.18% 5.25% 5.15% 6.24% 7.04% 8.13% 4.90% 5.04% 4.85% 7.01% 6.77%
    Honduras Total Removals 8,301 8,814 15,656 27,270 31,248 31,590 27,983 25,994 23,231 32,452 36,895 40,654 20,339 22,020 22,168 28,599 41,590
    % of Pop. Removed 3.58% 4.01% 5.24% 8.64% 9.50% 8.91% 7.74% 6.40% 6.01% 7.86% 8.74% 9.21% 4.40% 4.25% 4.55% 5.81% 7.24%
    El Salvador Total Removals 5,610 7,082 8,384 11,334 21,892 22,408 21,595 21,037 18,262 19,749 21,340 27,468 21,802 20,559 18,607 15,166 18,781
    % of Pop. Removed 0.89% 1.05% 1.17% 1.52% 2.83% 2.95% 2.59% 2.41% 2.08% 2.26% 2.48% 3.01% 2.35% 2.25% 2.01% 1.65% 1.97%
    Brazil Total Removals 2,916 4,977 6,040 3,733 4,974 6,019 3,581 3,551 3,511 2,439 1,373 838 733 1,113 1,361 1,633 1,710
    % of Pop. Removed 1.57% 2.34% 2.39% 1.43% 1.92% 2.42% 1.33% 1.43% 1.55% 1.17% 0.63% 0.40% 0.33% 0.44% 0.46% 0.56% 0.52%
    Dominican Republic Total Removals 3,077 3,380 3,087 3,027 3,816 3,988 3,943 3,797 3,341 3,207 2,429 2,155 1,954 1,959 1,953 1,730 2,127
    % of Pop. Removed 0.85% 0.86% 0.80% 0.74% 0.96% 0.98% 0.95% 0.82% 0.73% 0.66% 0.48% 0.45% 0.40% 0.38% 0.35% 0.32% 0.42%
    Colombia Total Removals 2,356 2,699 2,733 2,866 3,738 3,885 2,946 2,603 2,070 1,658 1,329 1,243 1,142 1,137 1,052 1,101 1,132
    % of Pop. Removed 0.77% 0.94% 0.89% 0.87% 1.15% 1.24% 0.91% 0.78% 0.63% 0.51% 0.45% 0.42% 0.38% 0.41% 0.33% 0.36% 0.37%
    Ecuador Total Removals 637 981 1,415 1,692 1,692 2,668 2,607 2,582 1,935 1,947 1,584 1,574 1,313 1,099 1,103 1,209 2,196
    % of Pop. Removed 0.26% 0.49% 0.63% 0.73% 0.74% 1.06% 1.02% 0.93% 0.77% 0.83% 0.65% 0.69% 0.54% 0.49% 0.49% 0.55% 1.09%
    Nicaragua Total Removals 815 913 1,246 2,424 2,462 2,640 2,233 1,996 1,627 1,482 1,367 1,277 860 783 824 854 2,224
    % of Pop. Removed 0.54% 0.76% 0.90% 1.80% 1.84% 2.08% 1.73% 1.60% 1.38% 1.14% 1.29% 1.15% 0.73% 0.72% 0.79% 0.86% 2.28%
    Jamaica Total Removals 1,792 1,977 1,710 1,500 1,486 1,658 1,685 1,519 1,535 1,349 1,116 940 741 809 741 776 734
    % of Pop. Removed 0.68% 0.83% 0.70% 0.54% 0.65% 0.65% 0.69% 0.60% 0.59% 0.52% 0.43% 0.38% 0.29% 0.32% 0.31% 0.34% 0.29%
    Top Ten Countries of Removal in Absolute Numbers (New York)
    2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
    Brazil Total Removals 373 410 530 1,009 1,400 2,540 1,326 1,165 1,138 874 608 238 131 125 201 155 282
    % of Pop. Removed 3.64% 2.81% 2.94% 6.35% 8.52% 11.85% 7.52% 8.95% 7.64% 6.54% 3.52% 1.84% 1.12% 0.88% 1.72% 0.97% 1.54%
    Colombia Total Removals 431 589 634 555 505 546 340 323 167 111 76 65 48 21 28 30 30
    % of Pop. Removed 0.84% 1.51% 1.31% 1.27% 0.94% 1.29% 0.65% 0.76% 0.35% 0.21% 0.18% 0.16% 0.12% 0.05% 0.07% 0.06% 0.09%
    Mexico Total Removals 160 392 459 485 414 367 289 288 334 236 211 164 94 97 113 170 136
    % of Pop. Removed 0.12% 0.26% 0.26% 0.24% 0.20% 0.18% 0.14% 0.13% 0.15% 0.11% 0.10% 0.08% 0.05% 0.05% 0.06% 0.10% 0.09%
    China Total Removals 289 339 478 574 414 420 230 346 286 309 189 175 77 45 61 63 100
    % of Pop. Removed 0.29% 0.27% 0.46% 0.42% 0.28% 0.28% 0.16% 0.19% 0.18% 0.17% 0.11% 0.09% 0.04% 0.02% 0.03% 0.03% 0.05%
    Ecuador Total Removals 169 296 264 299 419 646 500 384 319 242 121 113 55 48 72 92 118
    % of Pop. Removed 0.14% 0.34% 0.25% 0.28% 0.39% 0.54% 0.41% 0.32% 0.30% 0.23% 0.12% 0.11% 0.05% 0.04% 0.07% 0.11% 0.15%
    Guatemala Total Removals 188 297 437 510 528 453 258 210 239 156 148 106 105 115 85 124 98
    % of Pop. Removed 0.73% 1.36% 1.12% 1.20% 1.71% 1.36% 0.77% 0.58% 0.48% 0.33% 0.28% 0.26% 0.23% 0.23% 0.19% 0.32% 0.17%
    El Salvador Total Removals 196 245 355 391 400 571 349 376 227 164 91 158 43 61 76 62 94
    % of Pop. Removed 0.30% 0.39% 0.55% 0.66% 0.61% 0.82% 0.55% 0.46% 0.30% 0.18% 0.10% 0.19% 0.05% 0.09% 0.09% 0.09% 0.14%
    Pakistan Total Removals 604 323 355 315 421 269 203 214 152 108 73 48 44 54 123 64 68
    % of Pop. Removed 1.55% 1.61% 1.85% 1.26% 1.60% 1.16% 1.18% 0.87% 0.53% 0.55% 0.29% 0.18% 0.17% 0.26% 0.55% 0.36% 0.32%
    Canada Total Removals 171 228 232 243 315 279 261 279 265 215 193 132 126 148 126 90 83
    % of Pop. Removed 0.53% 0.83% 0.79% 0.77% 1.06% 0.83% 0.87% 0.87% 0.90% 0.68% 0.59% 0.45% 0.42% 0.46% 0.48% 0.28% 0.27%
    Dominican Republic Total Removals 374 400 405 446 401 317 254 171 159 114 111 71 37 39 37 34 36
    % of Pop. Removed 0.19% 0.18% 0.19% 0.20% 0.18% 0.15% 0.11% 0.07% 0.07% 0.05% 0.04% 0.03% 0.01% 0.02% 0.01% 0.01% 0.02%
  • Mexico and Central America

    Nationally, four groups have the highest removals rates: Hondurans, Guatemalans, Mexicans, and Salvadorans (in order). Honduran removal rates peaked at 9.5 percent in 2007 and 9.2 percent in 2014 and averaged about 6.6 percent during the 2003-19 period. The federal government removed 8.1 percent of Guatemalan migrants in 2014, followed by a second spike of 7.0 percent in 2018. Between 2008 and 2013, the average Mexican removal rate was 3.1 percent with the rates since 2013 just below 2 percent, but still above the average of 1.5 percent for all foreign-born groups. Salvadorans were targeted nationally at the highest rates in 2008 and 2014 (3 percent). Taken together, in New York State these foreign-national groups experienced lower average rates of removal than the statewide rate for all foreign-born in each year across the period, bucking national trends.

    Mexican nationals constitute the highest absolute number of removals from across the United States, with a removal rate of 2.1 percent. Yet, noncitizens of Mexican origin in New York State had removal rates of 0.1 percent during the same period. Similarly, although Central Americans faced the highest rates of removal nationally, particularly in certain years, in New York State the removal rates of foreign-born individuals from each Central American country were on par, or only very slightly above the total state removal rate prior to 2011, and have been at or below statewide rates ever since.

    Given the historical precedence of migration of Spanish-speakers to New York, a large number of established organizations exist to serve Latinx immigrant communities, and Spanish-speakers specifically. Although Mexicans and Central Americans are relatively new sizable migrant groups in the New York region, they may have been able to access existing services and networks to obtain legal help in the face of removal proceedings, especially during the past decade, which may help to explain the lower rates of removal for these foreign-born groups. Future research exploring legal service utilization by various foreign-born groups in New York State may help to clarify these trends.

  • Spanish-Speaking South America

    Given low removal rates for Central Americans and Mexicans in New York, we wondered about how foreign-born individuals from other Spanish-speaking countries fared. In absolute numbers, foreign nationals from the South American countries of Ecuador (4,219) and Colombia (4,520) are among the top 10 for removals in New York between 2003 and 2019. Removals rates of noncitizen Ecuadorians fall slightly under statewide removals rates. Colombians, in contrast, had higher than average removals rates before 2011, but not since. Peruvian removal rates in New York hovered around the average rate for the state but were slightly higher than statewide averages between 2009 and 2017. Uruguayan and Bolivian removal rates are above the statewide removal rate, but should be interpreted with caution due to population count issues.

    To address the population size issues,  we looked at removal rates for the foreign-born from Andean Pact countries (including Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia) and for Southern Cone countries (including Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay). Doing so shows that both are notably higher than statewide removals rates of Mexicans and Central Americans. Although in New York removal rates from this region are on par with statewide averages, nationally their rates of removal are much lower than the overall rate. Among all Spanish-speaking groups in New York, the most targeted for removals are those foreign-born from Andean countries.

    One explanation for the higher rates of removal of foreign-born from the Southern Cone, or possibly for the higher rates of removal from the Andean region as compared to Mexico and Central America, may be related to the recency of arrival and their lack of legalization pathways, as many may be ineligible for family sponsorship or political asylum. Challenges could be compounded by lower levels of legal services accessibility and utilization, and possible languages barriers for migrants from non-Spanish speaking indigenous communities from this region. However, data specific to asylum seekers from this region suggests this may not be the case. More research is needed to better understand this trend. More research on legal service utilization and legalization pathways among diverse South American migrant groups is needed to better understand these trends.

  • The Caribbean

    Historically, New York is home to high numbers of migrants from Caribbean nations. While Dominicans and Jamaicans are among the most targeted groups in absolute numbers in New York State, rates of removal are low both in New York State and nationally. For Dominicans, Jamaicans, Haitians, and Guyanese—the most populous Caribbean groups in New York State—removal rates consistently fell below statewide and nationwide averages for all foreign-born groups. One notable exception is a spike in Haitian removals rates nationally (and very slightly in New York State) between 2016 and 2018. This dramatic increase coincides with the termination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in 2017, and then its reinstatement, during that period. This change may have caused confusion and a short-term period during which new arrivals were ineligible for TPS protections, which when granted mean that a person is not removable from the United States and can’t be detained by DHS on the basis of their immigration status. This spike suggests that removals rates can, at times, be quite sensitive to short-term changes in immigration policy and practice.

    The low removal rates for these four groups is somewhat surprising, given the intensity of stop and frisk policies in New York City between 2002 and 2013 that specifically targeted Black men and the grounds for removal related to minor drug offenses implemented in the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA). Given the large number of migrants in New York from Jamaica and the Dominican Republic racialized as Black and that 85 percent of stop-and-frisk stops targeted Black and Hispanic young men in New York City, we might expect that the confluence of policing practices led to these groups being disproportionately targeted by enforcement measures. Indeed, preliminary interior arrest data for New York suggests higher rates among Jamaicans than other foreign-born groups. These differences point towards the need for further research to understand the impacts of policies beyond removals, and how policing practices in combination with immigration enforcement may disproportionately target some foreign-national groups or subnational groups.

  • Asia

    The high absolute number of Chinese (4,431) and Indian (2,620) foreign-born residents removed from New York between 2003 and 2019 were driven by the relatively large population. As a result, the removal rates for these and most other Asian groups were lower than the national and state averages. More research is needed to better understand how foreign-born individuals from both South Asia and East/ Southeast Asia experience removals.

    Trends in removal rates for three specific Asian foreign-born groups in New York look notably different. Indonesian foreign-national removal rates are on average 2 percent across the period, but fluctuated between 1.5 percent and 4 percent until 2013, well above the statewide average. Similarly, removal rates for Pakistanis were higher than statewide averages in most years. The CIA World Factbook lists the official religion to be Muslim for 96.5 percent of the population in Pakistan and for 87.2 percent of the population in Indonesia. That Pakistan is a majority Muslim nation may be a factor in their higher-than-average rate of removal over that period, given that other foreign-born residents from majority Muslim nations also have relatively high removal rates in New York. Removal rates of foreign nationals from Sri Lanka were as high as 6 percent in New York between 2007 and 2012; although there are fluctuations suggesting population estimate issues, the average removal rate across the past two decades remains above statewide average rates, presenting a bit of puzzlement. More research on migration patterns related to the 25-year civil war, for example, might clarify these patterns, especially given that the US government did not grant Sri Lankans Temporary Protected Status despite significant political upheaval.

  • Africa

    Like trends in Indonesia and Pakistan, removals rates for African nations suggest that countries with significant Muslim populations experienced removals at rates higher than the state average in New York. Foreign-born nationals from northern Africa are less likely to have been targeted for removal in the United States as a whole, but were targeted for removal in New York State at higher rates than other groups, particularly during the early 2000s.

    Removal rates of Egyptians, with 90 percent of the population being Muslim, Algerians, with 99 percent population being Muslim, and Moroccans, also with a population that is 99 percent Muslim, stand out. Egyptians were targeted more in 2003-12 (1.9 percent) than in 2013-20 (0.5 percent). Algerians and Moroccans were targeted at exceptionally high rates of 4.5 percent and 4.2 percent each during 2003 and 2006, but dropped in following years. Considering northern Africa as a region that includes Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia (99 percent Muslim) and Libya (97 percent Muslim), we see a disproportionate risk of removal from New York State but not nationally, though those rates of removal have declined over the past decade.

    Similarly, Western African countries as a region also show higher rates of removal in New York than other foreign-born groups, but not nationally. This region includes: Burkina Faso, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, Benin, Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, and Guinea-Bassou of which the most populous religious group is Muslim in all but five countries (Benin, Cabo Verde, Ghana, Liberia, and Togo). Given that many individual African countries have unreliable yearly foreign-born population counts in the US census, more research on African immigrants in general, and enforcement experiences specifically, is vital to understanding these removal trends.

  • The Middle East

    In New York, citizens from several Middle Eastern nations with large Muslim populations experienced high rates of removal at the start of the 2000s, followed by a dramatic decline after 2010. For many individual countries, low population estimates make year-to-year trends unreliable, but as an example, across the entire period 1.1 percent of noncitizen Syrians (officially 87 percent Muslim) were removed from New York, close to double the statewide average. Foreign nationals from Saudi Arabia (85-90 percent Muslim), Lebanon (68 percent Muslim), and Jordan (97 percent Muslim) appear to follow a similar trend. Given issues related to availability and reliability of the population estimates of noncitizens from these countries, removal rates require cautious interpretation. It may be that absolute numbers prove more informative to those working with these populations.

    A member of NATO since 1952, Turkey (99.8 percent Muslim)—positioned in between Europe and the Middle East—is an interesting case that highlights what appears to be a pattern of higher removal rates in New York from majority Muslim countries. Removal rates of noncitizens from Turkey were higher than the state average during the first decade of the twenty-first century but dropped considerably after 2011—although they still remained higher than state averages across the subsequent decade. Similar to removals of North African foreign nationals, these patterns of enforcement suggest the need for more research on the enforcement experiences of migrants from majority Muslim countries in New York.

  • Europe

    Most countries in Europe—whether despite or because of high historical levels of US migration—have relatively low removal rates in New York and nationally. One noteworthy trend in removal rates in New York, but not nationally, is among countries of the former Eastern Soviet Bloc. Despite some year-to-year volatility, removals of noncitizens from the former Czechoslovakia averaged 1.6 percent over the entire period, well above the statewide average. Similarly, citizens from former Yugoslavian nations—current citizens from Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia—were notably at higher risk of removal during most years since 2003.

    Removals rates for noncitizen foreign nationals from the former Eastern Soviet Bloc as a larger region is consistent with this pattern. This includes the former Yugoslavia, the former Czechoslovakia, Poland, Albania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania, Hungary, and Estonia. In all years except 2005, foreign-nationals from the region had higher rates of removal in New York State than the average rate for all foreign-national groups, a pattern not evident at the national level. Looking at the Eurasian Economic Union, which includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia, finds similarly higher rates of removal exist, but only in the period following 2010. More research is necessary to better understand these regional removal patterns and the experiences of European immigrants, many of whom identify as white and some of whom may identify as Muslim, targeted for enforcement.

  • Two Outliers: Brazil and Canada

    Two Western Hemisphere foreign-national groups have remarkably high rates of removal from New York: Brazilians and Canadians. Canadians experienced a disproportionate risk of removal from New York State in all years under study. Detailed analysis of the specific nature of Canadian removals might be helpful to better understand this pattern. For example, approximately 67 percent of all removals from New York State did not involve criminal convictions, yet under 45 percent of Canadian removals did not involve criminal convictions. This suggests patterns of Canadian removals may differ in important ways and are worthy of further exploration.

    Brazilian citizens are by far the group most targeted for removals in New York State. Although removed at higher rates nationally as well prior to 2008, removals rates for Brazilians from New York hit an unprecedented high of 12 percent in 2012 and averaged across the entire period at 4.6 percent. What can explain this trend? Unlike Canadians, 86 percent of Brazilians removed from the state had no criminal convictions and 77 percent had entered without inspection—meaning they entered the country at a land border without going through customs. This suggests that Brazilian removals are not visa overstayers but arrived at the United States as unauthorized migrants.

    Further exploration is needed to explain this pattern, but we note a few possibilities here. First, it is possible that Brazilians residing in other northeastern states get moved to the New York courts for removal proceedings. This could be due to language accessibility issues or a preference of lawyers working with Brazilian speakers to move their cases to New York immigration courts. This would make removal rates from New York look artificially high. To explore this possibility, we looked at Brazilian removals rates across the northeastern states as a region, including New York. Removal rates for noncitizen Brazilians in the northeast closely followed the national average. This may help to explain what appear to be exceptionally high rates of removals in New York—but perhaps not fully, as they are still double the statewide rates in most years.

    Percentage of Brazilian Removals, New York State and United States

    Another explanation could be that Brazilians may not access legal services—due to language or other accessibility issue—which have been shown to be the most important factor in predicting removal proceeding outcomes. Brazilians’ first language is typically Portuguese. Unlike other groups of recent border crossers (i.e., those who enter without inspection) such as Haitians or Hondurans—Brazilians do not have access to other avenues of legal relief. Brazilians have not been granted Temporary Protected Status, and if they enter without inspection and do not have family members here, they may not be eligible for waivers of deportation, a form of relief available to some foreign-born nationals. Future research should explore how Brazilians navigate the legal system, access legal services, and more broadly outline their pathways towards removal.


Joanna Dreby is a professor of sociology at the University at Albany
Jeewoo Shin is a sociology doctoral student and research assistant at the University at Albany