In 2017, the Donald Trump Administration implemented and tried to implement dramatic changes to the US immigration system, banning Muslims, attacking immigrant-friendly cities, deporting parents who had lived in the US for decades who had no criminal record, rescinding DACA, refusing to renew TPS, and much more. Contrary to the “bad hombres” rhetoric that pervaded the 2016 election, the Trump Administration quickly made it clear that it was going after all immigrants, including those coming through “legal” channels. Last year, we described Trump’s efforts as being part of an ethno-centrist agenda to decrease the number of immigrants and people of color in America and change the country’s demographics for the long run.
2018 is just beginning, but already there are signs that the Administration — darkly guided by anti-immigrant zealots like Attorney General Jeff Sessions and senior strategist Stephen Miller — isn’t slowing down. Trump already tweeted a wish-list of anti-immigrant policies that he wants in exchange for solving the DACA crisis that he initiated by canceling the program.
Below are some of the changes to immigrant and immigration policies that are already in the works:
USCIS may make it harder for Congress to resolve immigration cases
According to Betsy Woodruff at Daily Beast, USCIS is in the process of changing the way that Congressional offices can help constituents resolve immigration cases.
Currently, when a person interacts with the US immigration system — whether they’re fighting a deportation, trying to get a green card, trying to obtain US citizenship, or another reason — one way of expediting the bureaucratic process can be to get their local member of Congress involved.
USCIS now wants to make that harder, by requiring constituents who ask for help to jump through new hoops and hurdles that could drastically cut down on the ability of Congressional offices to help. According to the Daily Beast, the developing USCIS requirements may bar staffers from discussing cases with the applicant’s lawyers or family members, prohibitively drive up the costs of an immigrant seeking help*, and lead to an explosion in paperwork**.
* One USCIS provision would require that all non-English documents be translated, which can cost up to $100 per page.
** Another USCIS provision would require an applicant’s signature and approval after every back-and-forth with USCIS, which could get unwieldy when if a person has a follow-up question or multi-part case.
DHS considering H-1B visa changes
According to McClatchy, the Trump Administration is considering multiple changes to the H-1B visa program, including one which would prevent hundreds of thousands of workers from keeping their visas while their green card applications are pending, one which would restrict visa recipients to workers earning the highest incomes, and one which would prohibit the spouses of visa recipients from working (as they are currently allowed to do).
Right now, immigrant can be sponsored for two three-year H-1B visas by companies that wish to hire them, but those who have begun the green card process can often renew their work visas indefinitely. One expert estimated that there are more than 1 million H-1B visa holders in the US waiting for green cards, some of whom have been waiting longer than a decade.
Chillingly, according to one source briefed by DHS officials, “The idea is to create a sort of ‘self- deportation’ of hundreds of thousands of Indian tech workers in the United States.”
Said a DOJ official from the Obama Administration who now represents H-1B workers, “This would be a major catastrophic development as many people have been waiting in line for green cards for over a decade, have U.S. citizen children, own a home.”
Trump wants to add citizenship question to census
The 2020 census is approaching, and Trump apparently wants to add a citizenship question, which advocates say would slash immigrants’ willingness to participate.
There hasn’t been an immigration question on the census since 1950. Since the census’ inception in 1790, the census has sought to count everyone in the US, not just those here with papers. If immigrants become unwilling to participate in being counted, that could have ripple effects on a number of things that depend on the census, from Congressional seat distribution to where federal dollars are spent.
The Census Bureau also puts out an American Community Survey, a more extensive questionnaire which asks Americans about things including citizenship status. In one case, census interviewers reported, a respondent “walked out and left interviewer alone in home during citizenship questions.”
Trump Administration begins hard campaign against family-based immigration
Toward the end of last year, the Trump Administration began a concentrated attack against family-based migration, with the express goal of turning public opinion against this form of legal immigration.
As Stuart Anderson, the executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy, wrote at Forbes today:
If successful, and the administration would need support from Congress, eliminating most family immigration (and Diversity visas) would reduce legal immigration by 50 percent, lower the nation’s projected level of economic growth and diminish business startups. Family immigrants start many of America’s small businesses. “Immigrants account for more than 90 percent of the growth in self-employment since 2000,” according to economist Magnus Lofstrom. It would also deny the opportunity to immigrate to approximately 4 million family-sponsored immigrants who have waited lawfully outside the country.
Anderson’s article also enumerates a number of ways Trump will be attempting to change policies addressing immigrants and immigration in 2018. As he writes: “the assault on all forms of immigration to the U.S. will continue in 2018. Expect nobody to be spared.”