A Look Back At US And Canadian Immigration Issues In 2016

By Andy Semotiuk | December 22, 2016

Lawyer Andy Semotiuk

Andy Semotiuk – Pace Law Firm

In this interview, Pace Immigration lawyer Andy Semotiuk takes a look at what happened in immigration in 2016.

Andy, one of the biggest headlines of the year was the election of Donald Trump. How will his presidency affect immigration policy in the US?

Donald Trump’s election likely marks a significant change in the direction of US immigration policy. He has made promises to build a wall at the US/Mexico border, and has stated that his first priority is to deport illegal immigrants who have a criminal record. He has, however, been a little more cagey on what he will or won’t do with other undocumented immigrants, such as the “Dreamers.”

Whatever you think of Trump, those who voted for him were obviously frustrated with the path of US immigration policy. The issue was a big part of his platform. The first few months of his presidency should give us a good indication on which plans he intends to see through.

Will the Brexit vote have an impact on immigration?

The decision of voters in Great Britain to leave the European Union signalled a change in attitudes about immigration on the European continent. It may even have influenced how Canadian and American voters should view the influx of refugees to their own countries.

Where some see turmoil, others see opportunity. Regarding Brexit, you’re seeing stories in the Canadian press now about turning to China as a trading partner. Canada is opening new visa offices in China, and is relaxing parent and grandparent immigration requirements. A stronger Chinese/Canadian relationship looks to be on the horizon.

Syrian refugees coming to Canada in 2016 was a big news item. How did it work out?

Angela Merkel’s decision to publicly announce that Germany would accept one million refugees inspired a seemingly endless flood of people seeking to cross the Mediterranean to find a new home in Europe. In turn, this put pressure on other countries like the US and Canada to take in more refugees from the region. During the last Canadian election, the Harper government announced that they would take in 10,000 refugees and the Trudeau campaign countered that they would take in 25,000. The impact of that promise on the Canadian election was likely negligible, but whatever the case, Trudeau was elected. In the end, Canada welcomed about 35,000 refugees from the Middle East. Immigration Minister McCallum has said that Canada will take in more in 2017, but as I’ve said repeatedly, this isn’t a real fix to the problem. There are millions of refugees all over the world, and Canada can’t possibly take them all. But is is good to help as many as we can.

What about comprehensive immigration reform in the United States? It seems to have gone nowhere.

“Nowhere” is exactly where it’s gone. Congress has been deadlocked on the issue for years. That isn’t going to change until at least the middle of 2017, when the new Congress has settled in. Then it will be up to Congress to send a bill to Trump’s desk, where it will or won’t be signed. But that bill isn’t close to being written.

The sticking point is what to do with 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the United States. Some want them all deported, which is a practical impossibility. Some want them all given amnesty, which is a political impossibility. Will Congress and Trump find a good middle ground? I hope so.

What happened with President Obama’s DACA/DAPA initiative?

The deferred action plan for undocumented children and parents was a noble effort by President Obama, but ultimately proved fruitless as a long-term solution. Faced with a deadlocked Congress and negativity about his record for the most deportations of any previous president, President Obama introduced executive orders to relieve the concerns of illegal immigrants through the DACA/DAPA.  The measures were aimed at helping certain non-violent illegal immigrants who immigrated to the country while under 16 years of age or who had close family members that attained permanent resident or citizenship status. The programs would have granted them temporary three-year relief from removal and given them the right to work. The programs were ultimately blocked by a divided Supreme Court. We now have to wait to see what President Trump will do about the issue.

In our next interview, Andy takes a look at what he thinks will happen with immigration policy in 2017. Stay tuned.