How Will Trump’s Presidency Affect U.S. Immigration? The results of the U.S. election surprised people throughout the United States and the world. Support for Donald Trump was much stronger than many polls had indicated. Whether this is due to a late surge or support that was always there but not publicly voiced, the result means Donald J. Trump will assume the highest office in the United States in January 2017.
How Will Trump’s Presidency Affect U.S. Immigration?
Many advocates for immigration reform were extremely troubled by Mr. Trump's comments on immigration during his campaign. He supported a ban on all Muslims entering the United States until we could “figure out what the heck is going on.”
He has indicated that we will build a wall between the United States and Mexico, and that everyone who is undocumented will have to leave the United States. He will create a deportation force.
But now that he’ll be taking office in the next two months, what will he actually do?
This is an unpredictable time in American politics. Although Mr. Trump campaigned on some very tough positions, he also showed himself to be someone who was not always forthcoming about what he would actually do once in office.
He has built up so much credibility with his base, some of whom take an extreme anti-immigration position. Considering that both houses of Congress will be Republican party controlled during his first two years in office, Mr. Trump may be able to get immigration-related legislation through Congress in a way that no one other President has in the last 20 years.
Trump’s Plans for Immigration
It’s too early for us to know all of Mr. Trump’s immigration plans. However, we do know that his 10-point Plan to Put America First includes tripling the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers and ending the DACA executive program. He has indicated that he does not support the United States accepting Syrian refugees at the rate that Hillary Clinton did, and he has indicated that he wishes to implement more extensive vetting of anyone seeking to come to the United States if we have reason to be concerned that they might be involved in terrorism.
His plan also includes deporting criminal aliens present in the United States, and detaining anyone caught coming into the United States without authorization until they can be deported. From the outset of his campaign, Mr. Trump has stated his plans to build a wall between the United States and Mexico.
However, whether these actions actually occur, when they occur, and how they are implemented is uncertain at this time. His ability to do this will be limited by the resources Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) has and whether Mr. Trump understands what this type of action will mean for our economy.
In 2008, ICE raided a meat packing plant in Postville, Iowa and deported a large number of undocumented workers. . U.S. citizens did not move to Postville to fill those jobs once the workers at the plant were detained. The town's economy collapsed. Mr. Trump prides himself on his knowledge as a businessman.
If Postville was any indication of what may happen if large numbers of individuals are detained and deported, we can only hope his administration gives more thought to the economic impacts of his harsh immigration enforcement measures.
As I noted in a Immigration Lawyer in Houston: Immigration Debate Needs Focus I wrote as Mr. Trump visited Houston, Texas in September, research shows that removing all undocumented immigrants from the United States and preventing all future unlawful entry would cost between $400 billion and $600 billion and reduce real gross domestic product (GDP) by over $1 trillion. Reports also show that our country also stands to lose several billion dollars of state and local taxes paid by undocumented immigrants.
In an interview that aired Sunday night on CBS's 60 Minutes, Mr. Trump was asked if he actually planned to deport all undocumented people. His response was that 2-3 million criminal aliens would be deported. He also stated later in the interview that he wanted to pass a "great immigration bill."
He did not provide specific information about DACA or other issues from his campaign, such as "extreme vetting" of visa applicants. While his words on 60 Minutes sound less extreme and more positive overall, we still have no idea what will happen in the end. His extremely conservative choices for his transition team and rumors of his possible choice to head the Department of Homeland Security have caused many to remain concerned.
In addition, I note that Mr. Trump’s plan does not address our country’s need for reform to our employment-based immigration system. At present, we still have an extremely limited number of H-1B visas for professional workers, and highly skilled workers from India or China still face years - sometimes over a decade - of wait time to get a green card based on employment/skill.
If his plan is to “Make America Great Again,” part of this should include implementing procedures that make it easier for the United States to win the global talent war to protect our future as a country with the most innovative companies, highest-level technology, and the most creative and successful entrepreneurs.
What Can You Do About Your Immigration Status?
One thing that is certain for now is that Mr. Trump’s win has made many people more concerned about their immigration status. My advice to those who are concerned is to determine your options now and consider taking action:
- Anyone without legal status should seek advice from a knowledgeable immigration attorney to determine if any options exist to obtain legal status.
- Anyone who has a deportation or removal order against them or was granted voluntary departure and never left the United States should get advice from a specialized immigration lawyer to see if anything can be done to reopen the prior deportation order to allow you to apply for legal status now.
- Anyone who has been given protection under the DACA program should consult with a skilled immigration attorney to determine if there are other options available to them and work toward them immediately.
- If you are present in the United States pursuant to a visa, seek advice from a skilled immigration lawyer to determine if you are able to apply for permanent residence.
- If you are a permanent resident, particularly if you have a criminal history, frequently travel to the Middle East, or are Muslim, consult with an experienced immigration lawyer to determine your eligibility for naturalization. If you succeed in naturalizing and do not like Mr. Trump’s policies, naturalization (the process of becoming a United States citizen) would allow you to vote in future presidential elections.
The U.S. immigration system is difficult to navigate. While the President cannot single handedly change our immigration laws, Mr. Trump will control the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State, and will direct their actions.
While only the House of Representatives and Senate can initiate the process of changing what our immigration laws allow, these two houses of Congress are now Republican controlled and thus are positioned to make changes.
Knowing that changes are almost certainly coming, I strongly advise anyone who is in the United States without authorization, with a temporary visa, or a greencard to consider long-term immigration options to protect yourself during this time.
If you have a question about your immigration status or would like to schedule a consultation with the Law Office of Kathryn N. Karam, P.C., please call us at (832) 582-0620 or click here to write us a note: