Andy Semotiuk – Pace Immigration: From the investigation of Russian interference in the US presidential elections, to North Korea’s progress in producing nuclear weapons, these foreign policy challenges made 2017 a year no one will forget. Domestically, however, the leading issue has been U.S. immigration. President Trump has been very active in pursuing his immigration agenda while trying to make “America Great Again.”
Let’s look at the top five developments in U.S. immigration in 2017.
After President Trump’s first two editions of the travel ban were blocked or altered by the courts, Trump signed his third travel ban on September 24th, 2017. Previous iterations of the ban were struck down by the courts largely due to what appeared to be an anti-Muslim animus. The Supreme Court allowed immediate enforcement of the most recent executive order pending appeals, making it the only edition of the travel ban allowed to proceed forward in its entirety like this. This third ban places varying levels of restrictions on foreign nationals from eight countries: Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Somalia and Yemen. Challenges to this ban are making their way through the courts and are likely to be reviewed by the Supreme Court some time in the new year.
DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) was a policy initiated by the Obama administration. It protected immigrant youth who entered the USA illegally when they were children by giving them work permits so that they can earn a living for themselves while temporarily removing them from the threat of deportation. President Trump decided to end DACA in his attempt to crack down on illegal immigrants. This has had a significant impact on so-called Dreamers, that is to say, those young people who relied on DACA to stay in the United States. DACA is no longer accepting new applications, but all existing DACA permits will be recognized until their two-year validity concludes. After their DACA permits expire, Dreamers are left on their own facing the possibility and danger of being deported from America. President Trump’s reassuring words that, “[DACA recipients] are not enforcement priorities unless they are criminals, are involved in criminal activity, or are members of a gang,” while comforting are no guarantee that all is well. All efforts to get Congress to act on this issue have not been successful.
President Trump tried to implement immigration policies which he promised during his campaign by ramping up immigration enforcement substantially and trying to cut federal funding to so called “sanctuary cities.” Trump has cracked down on illegal immigrants by hiring 10,000 new federal immigration agents and 5000 new border patrol agents. Deportations are up and illegal immigration to the United States is down. Furthermore, President Trump has pursued his agenda by clamping down on so-called “Sanctuary Cities,” places such as Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. These jurisdictions do not always aid Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials in identifying and deporting illegal immigrants, particularly on so-called detainers where ICE officials ask local law enforcement officers to hold immigrants in custody because of suspicion of unlawful presence. There are around 300 sanctuary cities that either have some sort of informal policies or actual rules that provide some sort of sanctuary to immigrants. In one recent case, after President Trump signed his executive order trying to hold up federal funding to the city, a federal court from San Francisco blocked it on the basis that it violated the constitution.
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) was created under the Immigration Act of 1990 and is used to temporarily protect the citizens of designated countries deemed unsafe due to a humanitarian crisis or because their countries are not adequately prepared to take citizens back. This means that citizens of countries that have received the TPS designation can obtain permits to temporarily work and live legally in the U.S. Some countries that have TPS designations are Honduras, El Salvador and Haiti because of natural disasters that devastated them. However, this year Trump’s administration has begun reviewing these TPS designations. So far it has cancelled three of the 10 countries with TPS designation, extended one country’s designation and left the fate of the other six to be decided in the 2018. Haiti was one of the countries cut from TPS designation resulting in the possibility of 50,000 Haitians being deported. As many as 300,000 immigrants in the United States could see their status cancelled under President’s Trump’s TPS reviews in 2018 .
A very substantial modification to US immigration is President Trump’s slashing of the overall cap for refugees from Obama’s previous 110,000 down to 45,000. This record low cap for refugees means that many won’t be getting a chance to enter America, making refugee advocates and organizations worried about what could still come.
No doubt U.S. immigration will be as active in 2018 as it was in 2017. One of the most interesting aspects of the subject is the interplay of U.S. democratic institutions affecting policies initiated in the area. The tug-of-war between the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government (such as with the travel bans) and the battle between federal, state and municipal jurisdictions (such as with the issue of sanctuary cities) are all worth noting. The role of the media in this dynamic, evolving drama is another fascinating piece of the puzzle. Areas to watch will be the continuing court challenges of the President’s travel bans and executive orders, the U.S.-Mexican wall project, increased enforcement against illegal immigrants and cancellations of TPS status, the overhaul of the EB-5 investor immigration program, cancellation of so-called “chain immigration,” changes to the H1B visa program and the elimination of the diversity green card lottery.
Andy J. Semotiuk is a U.S. and Canadian immigration lawyer, published author and former UN Correspondent with offices in New York and Toronto. Sign up for his newsletter at MyWorkVisa.com. This article originally appeared in Forbes.
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