For months now I have been fielding questions about how US immigration policies may be affected if Donald Trump is elected as president of the US. Those questions have of course intensified the past several days since the election results. The questions have stemmed from people feeling scared, nervous, fearful, sad, and shocked, among other feelings.
No one has a crystal ball, myself included, so we cannot predict what the future holds for us. Based on Trump’s statements during the presidential campaign, we do predict that we will have more of a restrictionist immigration environment in the coming years. Some more specific examples of things that may occur include (but are not limited to) the following:
- DACA: We anticipate that President Trump will not continue the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). You may recall that this program came into being through President Obama’s Executive Action in 2012. DACA is based on executive action, not legislation, so President Trump could unilaterally discontinue it. At this point, we do not know exactly how he would end this program. He could end it immediately, he could simply not renew the program again, or he could phase it out gradually in some other way.
- Increased immigration enforcement: We also anticipate more immigration enforcement, both in terms of increased enforcement at the border, and within the US. This increased enforcement could come about through policy changes implemented by the Trump administration. For example, Trump could overturn the current policy on prosecutorial discretion and could otherwise create policies that would prioritize enforcement of all kinds of immigration violations. In addition, there is the possibility of new legislation that would increase enforcement, sharpen penalties for immigration violations, etc. This of course would require the cooperation of Congress, which will be controlled by the Republican party for now.
- Removal of undocumented foreign nationals: Donald Trump has long “promised” to remove undocumented foreign nationals from the US. His statements have ranged in severity from immediately removing all 11 million undocumented foreign nationals to his more recent statement that he would concentrate on the removal of those undocumented foreign nationals who have a criminal history and/or have overstayed their visa.
- Changes in legal immigration: There has also been talk of the future President Trump curbing legal immigration, primarily through reducing the number of H-1B visas available every year. Keep in mind that to accomplish this, congress would have to take action to change the statute. While congress will be Republican-controlled for now, not every congressional representative will agree with Trump’s proposals. Therefore is not certain that such a proposal would be approved by congress.
What Should You Do Now?
Because we do not know exactly what will happen during Trump’s presidency, it is difficult to formulate a concrete plan of action. However, you may want to consider the following:
- If you or a family member or employee is an undocumented foreign national in the US, consider proactively contacting a qualified immigration attorney now to determine what your options may be.
- If you have planned to file for an immigration benefit (for example, a marriage-based case) but just haven’t gotten around to it yet, file now so you can obtain valid immigration status.
- If you have an immigration case pending, take a deep breath. It is possible for the Trump administration to implement new policy directives within USCIS or other agencies that may negatively impact immigration case processing, but we do not expect those changes to become effective immediately.
- Stay informed, but chose your source of information wisely. Our office will post relevant changes and information as it becomes available. The American Immigration Lawyers Association is a good resource as well. However, keep in mind that it is easy for incorrect immigration-based rumors to spread through media and the community. Immigration is such a complex field that even well-meaning, well-respected news sources can inadvertently provide incorrect or inaccurate information.
Regardless of what happens, please know that we stand in solidarity with our clients and friends. We believe that immigrants make the US an amazing country, and we will continue to provide the best immigration advice and services that we can to help you navigate these changing and challenging times. Onward, with hope!
If you need assistance with a family-based or employment-based immigration matter, please contact our office at 804-396-3412 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how we may be able to assist. We look forward to hearing from you!