2021 was a Dangerous Year for Migrants, Percent of Immigrants in the US Declines, ICE’s Digital Surveillance Under Fire, and more.

As the end of 2021 approaches, I am reminded of Judith Schalansky’s recent book An Inventory of Losses which asks the question: “Which more terrifying: the notion that everything comes to an end, or the thought that it may not?” Schalansky, whom I first encountered in Atlas of Remote Islands, spends the book contemplating (in beautiful prose) what it means to lose something irretrievable — a work of art, a piece of history, a species, etc. In this way, Schalansky brings to my mind Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost, which similarly takes up the theme of what it means to be lost, or Adam Phillips’ observation that getting lost is something that you gain; lost, we tend to say, is something you get.

Lost is the word I often hear associated with 2020 and now 2021. It seems that for many of us, these are years in which we experienced loss, the loss of loved ones and the loss of jobs, as well as years that we lost, as if we had expected to find these years and they instead came up missing, as if we somehow misplaced them. Immigration politics has mirrored these more general feelings of loss. From the treatment of Haitians along the U.S.-Mexico border to the reinstatement of the Migrant Protection Protocols, immigration researchers, reporters, and policy analysts seem constantly on the edge of their seats and glued to Twitter just to keep up with the volume of immigration changes, hardly any of them positive.

I don’t know how — I don’t think any of us know how — to fully process this sense of loss. I certainly do not have answers. But I do hope that wherever we are, that we are able to take some time between now and the new year to take account of what we have lost, but also take account of what we have gained, too. I’m sure this isn’t the introduction to an immigration politics newsletter you were expecting, but here it is anyway. May you carry the insights from 2021 into the new year.

Now let’s get into it.

Table of Contents

  1. 2021: A Dangerous Year for Migrants
  2. Manchin Pulls the Plug on Build Back Better
  3. ICE’s Digital Surveillance Practices Come Under Fire
  4. Court Tells ICE to End Collateral Arrests
  5. Percent of Immigrants in the US Declines
  6. Number of Immigrants Monitored by ICE’s Alternatives to Detention Program Continues to Grow
  7. Newsletter Slowdown until January

[1] 2021: A Dangerous Year for Migrants

More migrants went missing or died in North American in 2021 than in any year since 2014. This is according to new data from the Missing Migrants Project, a project of the International Organization for Migration (OIM) that tracks migration. In absolute numbers, more migrants died or went missing between 2014 and 2021 in the Mediterranean and North Africa. But North America ranked third overall, making up 7 percent of all migrants reported missing or dead. The OIM identifies 45,589 migrants who have been lost or died since 2014. The Missing Migrants Project produced a recent report on the Latin America to North America route available here.



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Austin Kocher, PhD

I study America’s immigration enforcement system. Assistant Professor at TRAC. Graduate of OSU Geography. Online at austinkocher.com.