The Future of Immigration in the US

In 2016, Trump has made several claims that would affect immigrants in the United States. He said that he would deport everyone, roll back protections for immigrants, and build a wall to keep immigrants out of the US and have Mexico pay for it. The question today is: were actions taken to reach these ends, and how does it affect how US immigration should be treated moving forward?

In this article, we’ll evaluate what the Trump administration has done, discuss how it has affected immigration proceedings in the US, and examine Trump’s and Biden’s plans on immigration under this context. While this isn’t meant to change your mind about who to vote for, it’s meant to provide up to date information to help you make an informed decision.

You should be aware of how your vote might impact immigrants, especially if your family or loved ones are immigrants themselves. If you have legal concerns regarding your immigration process, make sure to consult with an experienced immigration attorney.

Immigration under Trump Administration

Deportation

Even though he has repeatedly said that he would deport everyone, the truth is that he hasn’t. In fact, deportation numbers under the four years of the Trump administration are lower than they were in the first two years of President Obama’s presidency. He also had increased deportations of both immigrants with a criminal background and those without a criminal history at all during the first two years of his administration.

What he has had is some of the largest workplace raids in more than 10 years. Implementing expedited removal proceedings is another major change that will greatly affect immigration in the US. Expedited removal is a faster way to deport undocumented immigrants by not having a hearing in front of an immigration judge if the immigrant can’t prove they’ve been in the country for over two years.

Despite the actual number of deportations not being “everyone” as President Trump claimed it would be, the way Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) leaders, and the current administration have acted and talked about immigrants has served to increase fear throughout immigrant families in the US and outside its borders.

Protection for Immigrants

Under the Trump administration, we’ve witnessed how several protections for immigrants have been rolled back, including:

  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is ending in January 2021.
  • Several international student visas have been revoked this summer.
  • Trump has withdrawn from human rights groups with the UN.
  • Trump also expanded DHS’s reach when demanding papers from people to catch undocumented people from within 100 miles of a border to the entire US.

These are only some of the changes that have removed protections for immigrants in the US during Trump’s presidency.

Deferred Action Against Childhood Arrivals. DACA holders without criminal backgrounds are facing deportation. The Trump administration is also refusing to allow any new DACA applications to be accepted at US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) despite being told by the Supreme Court that they could not end DACA.

DREAM Act. Trump has also said he will set up a program for DREAMers but to date, nothing has been produced to back up these statements.

Refugee and Asylum. The number of refugees and asylees allowed into the US has decreased dramatically from 80,000 to under 18,000 under President Trump. He started the “Remain in Mexico” program which causes asylum seekers to remain in Mexico or return to countries such as Guatemala, Panama, and others while attempting to gain asylum in the US.

Moreover, asylum policies have been changed to increase the time for obtaining work authorization and to start charging a fee for the application. He also had the Justice Department narrow the scope of asylum protections so that victims of domestic violence can no longer apply for asylum. Since COVID-19, asylum, and refugee acceptance has stopped almost completely in the US.

Lastly, everyone is aware of the inhumane treatment of families at the borders being ripped apart and held in cages at holding facilities. Some families are still separated despite the Trump administration stating it was ending the practice in June 2019.

Building the Wall

One of the things President Trump has repeatedly said is to build a wall to prevent illegal immigrants from coming to the US. In June 2020, it was reported that around 216 to 307 miles of the wall were “built” since Trump took office. However, only 3 miles of the wall at that time was new construction, and the rest was shoring up current walls or replacements. As of September 2020, only 5 miles of the new wall has been built since Trump took office.

Trump has also stated the expenses for building the wall will be paid by Mexico. Unsurprisingly to most, Mexico did not pay for the wall, and the only one paying for it are the US taxpayers. What surprised people is that the Supreme Court allowed this administration to move funds from military spending to fund the wall. Interestingly, several of Trump’s acquaintances, including Steve Bannon, were recently indicted for embezzling funds from a charity they set up to help build the wall.

Merit-Based Immigration

Trump also has said repeatedly, parroting his senior policy advisor, a documented white supremacist, Stephen Miller, that he wants to move to merit-based immigration. While US immigration has been based on the idea of reuniting and unifying families since the 1960s, this is obviously not the goal for the Trump administration.

He and his cronies have said since before the election they think the US should move to merit-based immigration, which means that they would allow people in who have more money, better education, or some other measurable monetary value over those who have family ties in the US.

One of the biggest changes the Trump administration has instituted is the Public Charge application. The Public Charge is not new, as it has always been a requirement that an immigrant can support themselves in order to immigrate to the US. However, the Trump administration decided to write down what the requirements would be.

They have set up a “weighting point system” that will look at the money someone makes, their family size, their age, their health, their education, and a number of other factors to determine if they are eligible to be approved for a green card and other immigration benefits.

Although Trump claims to want a merit-based system, he has effectively stopped all employment visas from being processed at least through the end of this year, blaming the coronavirus.

Immigration Fees

One of the biggest changes this administration has put into place, which is on hold right now due to court injunctions, is increased fees for immigrants. While it may seem like the fee increase is minimal, the changes are substantial to immigrants and is clearly another way for this administration to limit immigration however it can.

Sanctuary Cities

Sadly, the President has also been working against cities within the US to deter immigration. He has ongoing feuds with sanctuary cities, which are cities that have said they will not turn information about legal status (or the lack thereof) to ICE, under some circumstances.

In response, Trump has tried to withhold funds from these cities. In a recent decision that he lost in NY, the administration had refused to give New York residents fast passes for traveling. He has also started labeling cities with higher democratic support as “out of control” and sent in national troops, many of which were comprised of DHS or ICE workers.

Biden’s Past Immigration Policies

Prior to being Vice President, Joe Biden was a Senator from 1973 to 2009. In 1983 Biden, voted against an amendment that would have allowed states to deny education and other benefits to illegal immigrants. A couple of years later, he voted for Ronald Reagan’s amnesty bill which gave millions of immigrant families the right to live in the US and get legal residency despite having lived here without a legal status.

Vice President Biden voted to allow Chinese students to stay in the US and gain citizenship. He also voted to suspend the deportation of Salvadorans and Nicaraguans. He then voted for Ted Kennedy’s Immigration Act of 1990, and voted for an amendment to halt deportations of family members of those who benefited under the Reagan Amnesty Act. He voted against giving preference to English speaking immigrants, and to allow the census to continue to count undocumented immigrants for the House seats.

In 1994, VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) was designed by Joe Biden and is one of his lasting legacies in his senatorial career. Biden continuously voted against another senator’s (Alan Simpson) attempts to limit US immigration. When Bush was in office, Biden continued to vote for immigrants and against limiting immigrants.

Many argue that while Biden was pro-immigrant, his tough on crime voting led to crackdowns on immigration decades later. In the mid-90s, he voted for an employment verification system as well as keeping immigrants (even documented ones) from getting Medicaid. He did vote for bills in the 1990s that since becoming law has led to increased incarceration and deportation of immigrants.

As Vice President, Biden ran the Alliance for Prosperity which gave financial incentives to South American countries who reduced immigration to the US. This program, plus Clinton’s Plan Columbia, were both masterminded by Biden and said by many to have brought more money to the corrupt and wealthy in the countries while increasing violence and poverty for the citizens it should have protected.

Where They Stand Now

Trump Immigration Platform

Trump’s current immigration platform is to build more of the wall and to end chain migration and the green card lottery. Chain migration is when a person sponsors their family – parents, and siblings – to get legal status in the US. It’s called chain migration because it is said that people who have lived together (chained together) in one place will often move together to a new place. To address this, Trump plans to have a merit-based immigration system and to severely restrict or end asylum in the US.

Biden Immigration Platform

Most of Biden’s immigration plans focus on undoing what Trump has done while making a better immigration system and keeping American’s safe. To this ends, Biden plans to:

  • Welcome immigrants to the US;
  • Reassert America’s commitment to asylum and refugee seekers;
  • Implement effective border screening;
  • Have a fair and humane immigration system;
  • Reverse the public charge rule;
  • Protect DREAMers and their families;
  • Rescind the ban on immigrants from certain Muslim countries; and
  • Order a review of the TPS ends.

What It Means For You

Andres Mejer Law has always been 100% behind legal immigration. We believe that every person should have the right to immigrate to the US and be with their family or work here if they meet certain criteria to do so.

What will happen if Trump is elected?

Trump’s proposed policies haven’t really changed. If he‘s elected, things will probably get much worse for immigrants.He may or may not have a Republican Senate, but he most certainly will have a conservative Supreme Court. This administration has shown repeatedly that they will do whatever they want whether it is against the law or policy or in direct contradiction of court orders, to get their way.

That means that immigrants will lose more rights. Immigration will fundamentally change as it is today. The immigration process will be more expensive, there will be fewer visas, and processing times will be longer.

 What will happen if Biden is elected?

Biden has been much more pro-immigrant throughout his career. While it is true that he has voted for programs that have increased deportations and criminal sanctions against immigrants, do any of us want immigrants in the US who are criminals?

If he doesn’t have a Democratic Senate, he may accomplish very little in changing the law other than using Executive Orders to undo what Trump did through Executive Orders. However, if the House and Senate become led by Democrats, he’ll have the opportunity to put in place true immigration reform.

It would be fantastic if there were finally a resolution for DREAMers so that they and their families are able to obtain legal status and stay in the only home most of them have known. The USCIS will probably not get faster, and ICE will probably not be nicer, but we can only hope that immigrants can and will feel safer.

Exercise Your Right to Vote!

Voting takes place on Tuesday, November 3rd. Early voting is open in many states including being able to get a mail-in ballot. If you’re a citizen of the United States, you have the right to vote. We encourage everyone to let their voice be heard, get out, and vote.

If you need assistance with your immigration issues, we are here to help. At Andres Mejer Law, we will do everything we can to help you achieve legal status. We won’t take your money if we can’t help you, so reach out to us today and we’ll see if we can get you started on your immigration journey.