The U.S. immigration system is often referred to as “broken” and for good reason. Due to outdated and inequitable rules, immigration is limited to a narrow set of situations. Applying for U.S. residence—let alone citizenship—is a complicated, long, and costly process, and only available to a few.

For the vast majority of immigrants, there is no “line” for them to get in; they simply do not have access to a pathway to citizenship. There is a dizzying array of requirements for citizenship, with narrow criteria for eligibility. Most immigrants start the process by applying for a “green card,” which grants the holder legal permanent resident status. If they aren’t eligible for a green card under the various categories, they lose access to citizenship.

Even when immigrants are eligible to apply, it can take years—even decades—to move through the system and become eligible to even apply for U.S. citizenship. In the meantime, all immigrants remain subject to a cruel and unaccountable deportation system that often arbitrarily disregards their ties and contributions to this country. In this system, people, even children, do not have a right to legal representation.

The first hurdle for many newly arriving immigrants is navigating (and avoiding) immigration detention. As Florida’s Glades Detention Center has illustrated, immigration detention is a prison by another name. Reports of civil rights violations, racially motivated violence, and sexual abuse are persistent.

Immigration detention is arguably to ensure immigrants show up to their court hearings, but this need is drastically overstated. Upon release from detention, approximately 89 percent of immigrants released from detention appear for every proceeding. For immigrants who have legal representation, that number goes up to 98 percent. The chances of success in immigration proceedings also increases exponentially with legal representation. An American Immigration Council report found that from 2007-2012, represented individuals were four times more likely to be released from detention and twice more likely to secure the relief sought.

While much of immigration policy and enforcement is set at the federal level and the state has restricted local control in this area, local government officials have the power and duty to protect their constituents through policies protecting immigrants’ rights and supporting immigrant families. It is important to understand that our state, and our nation, are not suffering from a crisis of undocumented immigration.

Despite the rhetoric, the number of undocumented immigrants has slightly declined, both in Florida and nationwide, over the last two decades, even as immigration has increased. Florida’s undocumented immigrant population has declined by more than 13 percent since 2008, while the total number of immigrants in Florida has increased by nearly 20 percent. It’s also important to recognize that those Floridians who lack legal immigrant status do not live in isolation. It is very common for families to have mixed status, with U.S. citizens living alongside both documented and undocumented immigrants.

More than 80 percent of undocumented Floridians are of working age, and the evidence shows immigrants who lack citizenship are more likely to work than their U.S. born peers. They’re also more likely to be entrepreneurs, and an estimated 90,000 undocumented Floridians own their own businesses. They pay an estimated $1.7 billion in taxes, including nearly $590 million in local and state taxes per year. In short, the collateral consequences of policies targeting immigrants are counterproductive to building Florida’s communities. This is why we need local and state governments to provide support for immigrants and their families where the federal government has failed.