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

Based on a report we released just today, communities already devastated by severe weather events caused by climate change often have to take their insurance companies to court just to get what they are owed so that they can rebuild their lives.

For example, our data on civil litigation in federal court shows that people in Lake Charles, Louisiana have filed more insurance claims in court than any other community in the country, which has helped drive up insurance lawsuits to the highest point in at least a decade.

Here’s the Report: One Year After Hurricane Laura, Louisiana Plaintiffs Rush…


ICE releases detention statistics on a bi-weekly basis. For the past year, we at TRAC have been systematically collecting that data to provide further insight into the immigration system.

One immigration detention statistic that can be confusing is the number of people in detention versus the number of new people put into detention called “book-ins.” Using a running total of the average daily detention population per month and the total number of monthly book-ins, we can see how these two numbers give slightly different but interrelated perspectives on detention.

To reinforce the point, consider the average length of stay in…


According to data released by ICE and processed and stored by TRAC, the number of people being held in civil immigrant detention centers appears to have leveled off after several weeks of growth.

The most recent numbers show that about 25,000 people are in detention. The numbers are still not nearly as high as they were during the Trump administration and prior to the pandemic when there were more than 55,000 people in detention on a single day.

The majority of people in detention were arrested by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), the agency responsible for border enforcement, while far…


Labor Day, which became a holiday in 1894, celebrates the dignity of every worker and the legacy of the worker movement in the United States. But for many workers who help keep America running but do not have a pathway to legal immigration status, their labor often goes unrecognized, unappreciated, and undervalued.

In fact, just today Marielena Hincapié, Executive Director of the National Immigration Law Center, calls for a pathway to citizenship in part as a way to “recognize and honor the millions of immigrant essential workers that have helped us survive the pandemic.”

Now — my immigration research tends…


Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is monitoring record numbers of immigrants through its “Alternatives to Detention” programs that rely on GPS monitors, smartphone technology, and telephonic reporting to monitor immigrants awaiting the outcome of their deportation cases. According to data updated today by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse in its ‘Quick Facts’ tools, a total of 117,682 people are currently enrolled in Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Alternatives to Detention program, up from about 87,000 a year ago at the end of August 2020.

For context, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Alternatives to Detention program allows the agency to monitor immigrants facing deportation…


I first met Edith Espinal at a meeting with Rubén Castilla Herrera and the Columbus Mennonite Church back in 2017 when I was on the board of the Central Ohio Worker Center. Edith was trying to keep her family together in the face of a deportation order. She had been trying for years to find a path to legalization, but in the end, the Trump administration wanted Edith gone — despite the fact that she lived in the U.S. for over two decades and had her whole family here.

In a last-ditch effort to keep her family together, Edith, community…


Even though immigration policy tends to focus on the U.S.-Mexico border asylum, it may come as a surprise that one of the most difficult places to obtain asylum is at the Cleveland immigration court in Ohio, far from the Southern border.

I looked at our latest data here at Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University and found that more than 90% of asylum cases decided by immigration judges in Cleveland, Ohio so far in FY 2021 have been denied, and just 10% have been approved. …


Josh Mandel is a Republican running to become a US Senator for my home state of Ohio on what he describes as Pro-Trump platform. Over the past several months, I’ve watched as Mandel posts photos on social media of himself with service employees across the state as part of some sort of grassroots-looking campaign to make it appear as if he’s close to working class people.

And “close” is exactly what his pictures show. Typically the images involve Mandel hugging young women (who don’t always seem to be entirely comfortable with the arrangement) in the middle of a pandemic with…


Immigrants who have a deportation order on their record and enter the United States again can be charged with what is called unlawful reentry, technically known as 8 USC 1326. This week, a judge in Nevada ruled that due to the racist anti-Latino history of this law (which is true), that it violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution (this part may not ultimately hold up in court).

We at TRAC study the federal government by obtaining large datasets through the Freedom of Information Act, and one part of that research includes analyzing federal prosecution data. …


I don’t know why I feel like saying this, but here goes. I was in the military during 9/11 and the subsequent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, as a security officer, no less. 9/11 is a powerful memory, but more important to my growth as a person was the US’ response to 9/11.

From inside the military and living in one of the world’s oldest colonies, Puerto Rico, whatever lackluster patriotism I felt as a teenager joining the military was gradually replaced by disenchantment, frustration, then outrage at the hubris of the country I was born into.

It wasn’t just…

Austin Kocher, PhD

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