President Donald Trump is soon expected to seek sharp changes in U.S. immigration
policy by using his executive power, echoing the politically contentious
approach taken by Barack Obama.
The new White House released its first executive actions on Inauguration
Day, regarding the Affordable Care Act and on regulations across the government.
Mr. Trump is planning others early this week on immigration and trade,
two White House officials said.
On immigration, advocates on both sides of the issue expect the administration
to toughen enforcement by deporting more people and reversing Obama administration
rules protecting young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
Frustrated by Congress’s unwillingness to pass immigration legislation,
Mr. Obama used executive power to target enforcement to serious criminals
and recent border crossers, and to give safe harbor from deportation and
work permits to young, so-called Dreamers. Conservatives said he was acting
beyond his authority, and when he tried to extend that safe harbor to
millions more people, the move was blocked by the courts.
Mr. Trump also is likely to reject refugees from Syria and other Muslim
nations, and cut grant funding for so-called sanctuary cities that don’t
cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
Other changes favored by Mr. Trump would require action by Congress. Among
legislation pushed by anti-immigration hard-liners is a bill that would
require U.S. employers to use the federal E-Verify system to check whether
potential employees are in the U.S. legally.
But most new legislation may require Democratic support in the Senate,
so administration officials will start their work by taking action in
areas within the power of the executive branch.
“Under current law, President Trump will have wide leeway and broad
authority to enforce U.S. immigration laws,” said Dan Stein, president
of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates lower
legal and illegal immigration levels. “Big changes are possible
without Congress’s help.”
Top options include:
Cut funding for sanctuary cities: Expect early action to punish the many cities and counties that call
themselves sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants, meaning law-enforcement
officials limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
Federal funding that might be targeted include Homeland Security grants
to combat terrorism and Justice Department funding for community policing.
Such cuts would set up an immediate political brawl—and likely legal
action. High-profile mayors in cities such as New York, Chicago and Los
Angeles would be pitted against the new administration.
End DACA protections: Mr. Trump promised to end the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
program. It gives temporary protections and work permits to about 750,000
young people who were brought to the U.S. as children.
Mr. Trump faces pressure, however, to protect these young people, who are
among the most sympathetic undocumented immigrants, and he has promised
to “work something out” for them.
Legislation pending in Congress would extend their protections, but it
is unclear whether GOP leaders would allow it to pass, or whether Democrats
would agree to compromises Republicans are likely to demand.
Reject refugees: The president has wide discretion in accepting refugees, and Mr. Trump
has said he wouldn’t take any from Syria or other countries where
terrorism is present. He also promised “extreme vetting” and
an ideological test for those who want to settle here.
Mr. Obama set the number of Syrian refugees permitted to enter in 2016
at 10,000. That could quickly fall to zero.
Speed up deportations: Like Mr. Obama, Mr. Trump has said he would prioritize criminals for deportation,
but promises to move more quickly to evict them.
At one point, he said he would remove criminal aliens on “day one.”
He has put his target number at 2 million to 3 million people, which would
be an increase from the current rate and many more than the estimated
number of illegal immigrants with criminal convictions.
It is expected the new administration would target people convicted of
minor crimes and those who have already been ordered out of the U.S. but remain.
Under Mr. Obama last year, 84% of the immigrants removed by the Immigration
and Customs Enforcement Agency fell into the administration’s top-priority
category, meaning they had been convicted of a serious crime, posed a
security threat or were recent illegal border crossers.
One option under discussion would be to treat people convicted of misdemeanors
and those with certain immigration violations the same way felons are
handled. Under the Obama system, these people were lower priorities.
A more aggressive option would try and deport anyone encountered by law
enforcement, even if they only had a traffic offense.
In 2012, the Obama administration deported more than 400,000 people. That
dropped to 235,000 last year.
Announce a border wall: Building a wall on the southern U.S. border would cost billions of dollars
and require Congress to appropriate money. Further, GOP lawmakers have
favored additional fencing, not a wall.
But Mr. Trump could issue a symbolic executive action of some sort indicating
the project would move ahead and find money in the existing budget to
begin the work.
Toughen rules for Central American migrants: Experts say the most urgent border security issue is Central American
children and families who are turning themselves in to border agents.
Most of them are released into the U.S. for an extended wait until their
cases are heard, with little guarantee they would ever be removed. The
new administration could process cases more quickly and might also refuse
to place children with relatives living in the U.S. if the relatives aren’t
Tighten legal visa system: The Obama administration allowed spouses of certain skilled foreign workers
to work as well. It also expanded a program that lets foreign students
stay in the U.S. while looking for work. Both policies could be reversed.
REVILLA LAW FIRM, P.A.
Immigration law firm committed to defending the rights of immigrants
With President Donald Trump now in office, there is an expectation he'll
use his executive power to make changes to current immigration policies.
While we do not have specific information, our immigration team is closely
monitoring any developing news that will impact immigration laws and policies.
In the meantime, our immigration lawyers are available to answer any questions
or concerns you may have regarding your immigration status in this country.
Contact us at (305) 858-2323 or toll free (877) 854-2323.
We offer a free in-office consultation in our Miami location.
Miami immigration attorney Antonio G. Revilla III is a former U.S. Immigration
Prosecutor and immigration lawyer with over 25 years of legal experience.
Mr. Revilla is a Past President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association
(AILA), South Florida Chapter. Antonio Revilla has also appeared on television
and radio as a legal expert in all immigration matters in both English
and Spanish. Antonio Revilla has dedicated his career to defending the
rights of immigrants and keeping the American Dream alive for those seeking
a better life.