The Future of Immigration under the Trump Administration

Posted on March 2nd, 2017

Last week, Immigration Attorneys, LLP’s Shannon Shepherd participated in a panel discussion on immigration with Representative Bobby Rush (D-IL), and other members of the advocacy and immigration community. Her topic was “The Future of Immigration under the Trump Administration” and these are some of the highlights:

The future of immigration is very uncertain. Not only for immigrants, but their families and employers too. Members of congress are putting forth legislation that could potentially change some types of immigration. Some want to drastically reduce the number of visas across the board. Some are targeting specific types of visas. Some propose eliminating certain family based categories. One act, the BRIDGE act, seeks to protect DACA recipients with a more permanent status (though not a path to citizenship). But nothing has passed either house yet, so we all still have a chance to make our voices heard. While a lot of the focus has been on the negative, congress and the president also have the opportunity to do something positive, like creating real solutions to fix our immigration system, and help our economy and keep families together.

The Trump administration has also put out several Executive Orders (EOs) and Enforcement Memos affecting immigration. The EOs and memos set forth pretty aggressive enforcement priorities. However, they are largely aspirational for the administration for the time being. They will take increased manpower, therefore money, to implement in many cases.

The signed memos include:

  • Elimination of any meaningful enforcement priorities. Under the previous administration, guidelines were issued to ICE which took into account the reality of the government’s limited resources, and the number of individuals who have been in the US for extended periods of time without status, but otherwise have no other issues with the police or other government agencies. Such individuals were said to be “low priority.” On the other hand, individuals who have been convicted of serious crimes were the highest priority for enforcement of the immigration law, meaning for deportation from the US. One of the Trump administration’s recent memos basically says everyone who is here without status or in violation of status is a priority.
  • Expansion of expedited removal. In most cases, in order to remove or deport someone from the US, they first have to have a chance to see a judge, and they have a right to a lawyer. But, expedited removal means that CBP or ICE can unilaterally deport someone without them ever having a chance for a judge to review their case, or without a chance to even speak to a lawyer. Immigration law already allows this in some circumstances, but the new memo states that they should increase that to the full extent of the law. Like the “enforcement priorities,” the prior administration decided only to use expedited removal in limited circumstances. But if the new administration expands it as proposed, then it likely means that someone who is in the US without status, anywhere in the country (not just near the border), who has been here less than two years, would also be subject to expedited removal.
  • Resurrection of the Secure Communities program, which despite its name, does not make us more secure. The program was originally put in place to allow local police and sheriffs to hold people on behalf of ICE until ICE could process the person. This program was previously discontinued because in many cases, ICE cannot process a person in a reasonable time, so even after they have served their sentence or even been acquitted of a crime, they were being held indefinitely. Police and sheriffs also resisted because it can lead to unconstitutional detention without probable cause, and exposes localities to legal liability.
  • Aggressive recruitment of state and local law enforcement to enter into agreements to carry out some immigration functions, such as detaining people based on immigration status. Again, these agreements undermine trust of law enforcement and have led to racial profiling and other abusive practices against immigrant communities by law enforcement.
  • Massive expansion of detention by requiring DHS to detain nearly everyone it apprehends, including those with no criminal convictions, at huge cost to taxpayers.
  • Denial of vital protections for children, obligated under the Trafficking Victim Protection and Reauthorization Act and the Homeland Security Act, by restricting the interpretation of "unaccompanied alien child."

So what do we do?
These policies require a budget. The budget comes from Congress, so it’s important to let your congressmen and senators know that you do not support these restrictive and aggressive policies.

It’s also important for people to know their rights. We encourage people to have a plan in place, just as you would for any emergency. If you would like to discuss options with an immigration lawyer, please contact our firm.

Finally, don’t lose hope! Many polls show that the majority of Americans support immigration reform and commonsense enforcement measures that help employers and don’t tear families apart. We can continue to fight for these goals even in the face of such obstacles as these EOs and policy memos.