A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration attorney and counsel. Contact Info: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/ (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Friday, November 11, 2016

President-Elect's Immigration Policy

Many people are nervous about the newly elected president's immigration policy.  The sentiment is understandable, given the strong rhetoric that we have been hearing since the beginning the presidential campaign.  However, it remains unclear how much of his immigration policy will actually be implemented after Mr. Trump takes office in January.  In fact, the President-elect has already softened his tone in his victory speech by emphasizing that he will be the president "for all of Americans" and will seek "common ground, not hostility; partnership, not conflict."   The following are the immigration-related items on his policy agenda within the first 100 days: 

Building a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border:  Among all the items on Mr. Trump's immigration agenda, this one is most likely to come to fruition.  Mr. Trump has repeatedly announced his intention to build a wall on our southern border to curtail illegal immigration.  However, the devil is always in the details. There will be a hose of logistical, technical, legal and financial issues involved regarding such a plan.  How long and tall should the wall be? What security and safety measures will be implemented?  Who is going to pay for it?  Mexico’s president already stated that his government is not willing to finance such a project.  Mr. Trump had suggested imposing some sort of tax when Mexican citizens send money to Mexico.

In a recent TV interview, Mr. Trump stated that fences will be installed instead of walls in certain regions of the border.

Suspending immigration from terror-prone regions:   To a certain extent this is already being done by the Obama administration.  Anybody with a questionable background is already being scrutinized by the U.S. government; many have already been refused visas to enter the U.S.

Renegotiating NAFTA or withdrawing from the agreement:   As some scholars already stated, it will not be easy for the U.S. to unilaterally back out of the agreement without tremendous rippling effects. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was negotiated and finalized by leaders of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. In fact, two U.S. presidents were involved in the process. The program was approved and ratified by Congress.  Tens of thousands of professionals are working in these three countries under NAFTA.  Killing it completely will definitely cause a lot of economic damage to many businesses.  Renegotiating and amending the terms of NAFTA is a more likely scenario.

Revoking existing programs such as DACA:  The President-elect has vowed to cancel every "unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama".  So this will likely include President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This program allows individuals who were brought to the country as children to receive temporary protection from deportation and employment authorization. More than one million individuals have enrolled in the program.  Mr. Trump could stop the program when he takes office.  What remains unclear is how he is going to deal with the existing beneficiaries. 

Canceling all federal funding to Sanctuary Cities:  This action will have significant impact to the finances of many metropolitan areas.  Many major U.S. cities including Seattle, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, etc., are Sanctuary Cities.  Cutting their funding will likely affect many social programs. 

Begin removing the more than 2 million criminal illegal immigrants from the country and cancel visas to foreign countries that won't take them back:  Mr. Trump initially wanted to remove all illegal immigrants form the country.  Now his priority is to remove the 2 million criminal illegal immigrants first.  This is merely a continuation of what President Obama has been doing. Unbeknownst to many, record numbers of criminal aliens have been removed from the U.S. under the Obama Administration. As president, Mr. Trump certainly has the authority to direct his Secretary of State to cancel U.S. visas issued to the nationals of foreign countries - such as Iran, Zimbabe, Cuba, etc. - that have refused to accept the return of their nationals. 

Legal immigration and high-tech visas:   Legal immigration and high-tech visas are not on the 100-day agenda of Mr. Trump. His position on the H-1B Visa Program has changed before. Many observers, including CEOs from the Sillicon Valley, believe and hope that, given his business background, Mr. Trump is unlikely to take any drastic actions against the high-tech visa programs. Regarding legal immigration, Mr. Trump stated that he intends to modernize the existing programs to speed up legal immigration and improve efficiency.

For those who are nervous about their immigration status, they should take measures early on before any changes take place. Things to do now -  Apply for U.S. citizenship immediately if eligible;  start any visa or green card petitions, or any other benefit applications as early as possible; and stay in close contact with their immigration attorneys.  

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