A year of fear: Immigration policy under Trump


Make no mistake about it. Our immigration system has been challenged going back long before the current presidential administration.

The 1996 immigration reform act signed by President Bill Clinton (Illegal Immigration Reform And Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 [IIRAIRA]) effectively eviscerated the rights of millions of immigrants. After the horrific events of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush changed how immigration laws would be enforced. The Obama administration oversaw record-breaking deportations, to the tune of 2.5 million immigrants removed and a vast expansion of family detention. President Trump’s anti-immigrant actions and rhetoric during his first year in office are set apart from previous immigration crackdowns in that it has been marked by a host of efforts to frighten both legal and undocumented immigrants.

{mosads}Starting with the failed travel bans, President Trump has shown that while he mentions plans with “heart” and “love,” he has done anything but show compassion to foreign nationals.

Here are a few of his first year’s “greatest hits”: Rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, ending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for many countries, and the abandonment by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the use of prosecutorial discretion, indiscriminately arresting and detaining those with no criminal history in an apparent effort to push deportation numbers ever higher.

Somewhat less attention has been paid to the fear and intimidation the administration has also extended to legal business immigration cases as well, such as the attacks on the Indian community and the idea of ending H-1B extensions for workers on the road to permanent residency, efforts to derail work permits for H-4 spouses, and delays in the processing of petitions for H-1B visas. Add to that, the administration’s cumbersome and redundant Requests for Additional Evidence. In our own practices, we’ve seen demands such as requiring a graduate of a U.S. university to submit some other evidence than a certified transcript and confirmation of graduation to prove they’ve been educated to a certain level.

These are roadblocks thrown up, both big and small, throughout every avenue of immigration-related policy. And you should care. It’s having an impact already.

Fewer foreign visitors are traveling to the United States, which translates to fewer tourist dollars spent and fewer international students are coming to study. From nurses trying to cross the Northern border to work on TN visas to asylum seekers stopped at the Southern border when they attempt to claim protection under existing laws, we’re seeing the impact. From the Pacific Northwest and Silicon Valley where jobs go unfilled and innovation fails to thrive, we’re seeing an impact. From the New England tourist industry without enough H-2B visa holders to keep resorts open full-time to the farms across our heartland without employees to fill the breadbasket, we’re all hurting.

Well, we are tired of hurting, of ignoring our pain without pushing for change. The Trump administration has made every effort to shift the perception of immigrants from innovators and entrepreneurs to a community that represents danger and terrorism. However, as the nonpartisan Cato Institute reports, the annual chance of being murdered in a terror attack on U.S. soil committed by a foreign-born person stands at 1 in 3,808,094. But our country’s chance of having a poorer future if immigration is further stymied is 100 percent.

So, we urge the Senate and the House to push forward on commonsense bipartisan immigration reform like the Dream Act. We urge legislators to ask agencies for more information about what the impact of changes is going to be and what their true purpose is. We urge businesses to advocate on behalf of immigrants who are their employees, their customers, it’s their lifeblood. We urge all of us to reject the Trump administration’s nationalist call, which asks us to betray our history as a nation of immigrants. Let us instead stand against fear and intimidation, together.

Harlan York, an immigration attorney based in New Jersey is former immigration chair of the NJ State Bar Association and former co-chair for the NY State Bar Association CFLS Committee on Immigration; Mr. York authored the 2015 book, “Three Degrees of Law“. Follow him on Twitter @HYORKLAW.

Sandra Feist, an immigration attorney based in Minnesota, has worked in the field of immigration law for more than 17 years; her practice focuses primarily on business immigration, helping U.S. companies gain access to the talent necessary for them to flourish in the global marketplace.

Both authors are members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

Tags Bill Clinton deferred action for childhood arrivals Donald Trump H-1B visa Illegal immigration Illegal immigration to the United States Immigration Immigration policy of Donald Trump Opposition to immigration

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