If Donald Trump’s own words are taken seriously then his administration will make massive changes in United States immigration policy. This post examines the first five changes that Trump claims he will make when he takes office. Another post will examine the more long-term changes he claims will be made.
Trump’s campaign promises regarding immigration policy are summarized in his “10 Point Plan to Put America First.” Following his election, he announced which actions he plans to take within his first 100 days in office. Those plans are summarized in “Donald Trump’s Contract with the American Voter.”
1. Canceling DACA and DAPA.
In 2014 President Obama issued an Executive Order referred to as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA allows certain individuals who reached the U.S. prior to turning sixteen, currently enrolled in school or recently graduated from school, or served in the US armed forces to remain in the U.S. with temporary work authorization. there are close to two-million young people who could benefit from DACA.
The Obama Administration later expanded the DACA program and announced Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA). Similar to DACA, DAPA granted temporary work authorization to certain parents of U.S. citizens. It also offered them protection from being deported for at least three years.
Trump plans to cancel DACA and DAPA within his first 100 days in office.
As we have explained in more detail elsewhere, unfortunately Trump does have the authority to cancel DACA and DAPA. Because they were created by the order of one president, they can be canceled by another president. Read our more detailed analysis of DACA cancelation here. In short, it is very likely that DACA will end almost immediately once Trump takes office.
2. Ending “sanctuary cities.”
Trump claims that in his first 100 days in office he will end funding to so-called “sanctuary cities.” What is a sanctuary city? Local governments across the U.S. have enacted ordinances that prohibit government employees and police officers from asking individuals about immigration status. Some of these rules also prevent turning immigrants over to immigration enforcement. These policies were often adopted because police forces worried that community relations were undermined by perceptions that the police did not protect immigrants.
Trump believes he can get cities to change their immigrant-friendly policies by threatening to withdraw federal funding if they do not. He has acknowledged that following through on this threat would require the cooperation of Congress. Whether the Republican Congress would be interested in prioritizing such legislation is far from clear.
Even if Congress wanted to cooperate with Trump’s crusade against sanctuary cities it is not clear it would have the authority to do so. Congress cannot simply tell local governments what policies to adopt. The federal government is allowed to attach conditions when it provides funds to local governments. But there are complex Constitutional doctrines that govern the limitations of what conditions Congress may place on funding.
It is fairly unlikely that Trump will be able to pass and sign legislation ending sanctuary cities within his first 100 days in office. Such legislation may eventually be passed, but the change will not be felt immediately.
3. Begin deporting “two million criminal illegal immigrants.”
Trump says that he will start deporting two million “criminal illegal immigrants” in his first 100 days in office. It is difficult to interpret this policy announcement.
As has been widely reported, President Obama has deported more immigrants than any president in U.S. history – over 2.5 million. The policies put into place by his administration have for years prioritized the deportation of those with criminal history. That includes even “minor” offenses. In other words, all of the resources of our deportation system are already directed at deporting “criminal illegal immigrants.”
Trump claims that in a little over three months he will be able to deport more people than the Obama administration did in eight years. And again, the Obama Administration set the record on the number of deportations.
4. Implement “extreme vetting” of all visa applicants.
Trump says that within his first 100 days of office he will implement “extreme vetting” of all visa applicants. What does that even mean?
All visa applicants are already subject to rigorous background screenings. Visa applicants are required to provide police background clearances from any place they have ever lived. And the security clearance by U.S. agencies can last well over a year. What more “extreme” measures does Trump plan to put into place?
There have been few specifics from Trump so far. As reported by CNN, the vetting would, “attempt to establish whether applicants’ beliefs match US values on gay rights, gender equality and religious freedoms, among others.” But asking visa applicants if they support gender equality doesn’t seem as extreme as the lengthy security screenings that are already in place.
Our advice to clients at this point is simply this. We should anticipate that screening processes at the Department of State may increase significantly in terms of their intensity and length. It is simply too early to say with any more precision how much longer applications might take.
5. “[S]uspend immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur.”
Trump plans to altogether end all immigration from regions where be believes applicants cannot be safely screened. Again, it is not clear which countries might be impacted by this policy. But it is a good bet that Syria could be on the list, along with other countries experiencing serious internal conflict.
This policy would be a profound departure from longstanding U.S. policies of assisting refugees fleeing persecution. To date, applicants are examined on a case-by-case basis to ensure they meet background and security standards. Trump would replace that approach with a blanket rejection of immigrants and refugees from certain areas of the worlds. This policy would likely be legally valid, if tragic to the individuals it would impact.