Law On Immigration In The United States
In 2016, Americans witnessed then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s fervent campaign that promised to raise the United States’ borders in a literal and figurative sense. With an impassioned guarantee to track down illegal immigrants for deportation, build a physical barrier on America’s southern border shared with Mexico, limit the number of accepted refugees from war-torn countries, and steadily deconstruct the previous administration’s lax immigration policies, President Trump is quickly and controversially reforming laws, with or without Congressional approval.
President Trump was not slow to act when the idea of the travel ban came to fruition, an immigration change that limited and restricted the acceptance of nationals from seven countries (Iran, North Korea, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Venezuela), ambiguously citing Muslim majorities from terrorism-prone areas. With the travel ban in place, the federal court systems and sanctuary cities resisted and made attempts to stall and deter deportation processes.
The president’s aim for controlled and limited immigration would not be complete without targeting the number of green cards issued per year. The Trump administration put forth the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act to halve the number of legal immigration through green cards. This Act, paired with the earlier issuing of Trump’s Buy American, Hire American executive order was just one of many to come in immigration policy changes.
Immigration policy changes also swiftly came in the form of the cancellation of the Temporary Protected Status from six countries (El Salvador, Honduras, Nepal, Sudan, Nicaragua, and Haiti). Temporary Protected Status is extended to countries facing extreme conditions such as natural disasters and other national emergencies. The discontinuation of protected statuses for these nationals is set to go into effect as early as 2019. This action pairs with President Trump’s decision to not extend work permits and protections to nearly 850 Liberians working and living in the United States for decades. Past presidents have extended these permits and protections on the basis of humanitarian grounds.
Criticism was voiced when President Trump rescinded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an executive order by Former President Obama that allowed children brought by their undocumented parents into the United States to work and live with protected status. Rounds of protests took place throughout major cities in the United States. Despite rescinding DACA, President Trump expressed hope that Congress would take action to protect DACA recipients.
The immigration debate intensified this year when a policy was introduced and enforced by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, inducing the separation of immigrant families at America’s borders. At this point, ICE officers were already seeking out illegal immigrants residing in America’s towns and cities and arresting them for detention and deportation. With the issuing of executive orders focusing on the severe limitation of legal immigrants set against the background of ICE raids on illegal immigrants, the pathway to gain legal citizenship in the United States was becoming less and less achievable.
National news outlets were quick to cover the upsetting stories of family separation and the treatment of minor immigrant children in shelters, further inciting the mass criticism of immigration policy changes. The shelters were reported to be over capacity with thousands of migrant children without their parents, subjected to harsh and unsanitary conditions. President Trump quickly moved to end the outrage by ceasing family separation at the borders.
The Trump administration has made several moves that when compiled together, makes for a dramatic and startling change to the former Obama administration’s immigration policies and laws. Small-scale policies established by the Trump administration’s various departments and officials have pushed the agenda of Trump’s campaign promises of strict and enforced immigration control with zero-tolerance towards illegal immigrants.
The quiet issuing and altering of immigration policies have made it increasingly difficult to gain citizenship and has created harsher ramifications for those entering and staying the country illegally. ICE announced that it would cease referring to the default of releasing pregnant immigrants from detention, which allows for pregnant women to be held for lengthy periods of time when awaiting their court proceedings.
The State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have also released policies and requirements for immigration. The State Department now formally requires all applicants for legal citizenship or visas to submit five years of social media, email, and phone history. The Department of Homeland Security has expanded government programs that could hinder immigrant applications for legal stays in the United States, which ultimately could skew the system to favor immigrants with higher incomes.
Then, there is the visual manifestation of the Trump administration’s immigration changes: the border wall. President Trump’s campaign fixated on the construction of a durable barrier on America’s shared border with Mexico as part of the promise to cease undocumented immigrants from crossing over. Trump had claimed that he would have Mexico pay for the wall’s construction, but this vehement demand led to diplomatic upset with Mexico. However, President Trump has struggled to erect the wall because of Congress’ denial to allow authority or funding.
Immigration lawyers have taken the brunt of these immense changes to immigration and citizenship, noting that it is now tremendously difficult to guide their clients through obtaining legal status and visas in the United States. The vetting process is extreme and the process has become slow and affected by the many executive orders and policy changes by the various government departments within the administration. Economic analysts argue that by constricting the flow of immigration in the workforce, the economy will be adversely impacted in a matter of years.
With the escalating immigration changes established by the Trump administration, the gateway is continually narrowing for immigrants to obtain legal citizenship, protected status, and work lawfully in the United States. As the weeks progress under President Trump’s undeterred restrictions of immigration policies, the window of opportunity is closing fast for refugees and immigrants hoping to become citizens. The importance of knowledgeable and experienced immigration lawyers is not only necessary, but their legal representation and guidance are imperative for undocumented individuals residing in the United States.