Trump's election has caused a tremendous amount of fear and concern for immigrants and their advocates. Though we will not know the full impact of his election until after he takes office, here are some initial predictions on key immigration issues and steps people can take now.
As you will see, the two suggestions have two basic themes. Immigrants should use the time before Trump takes office to protect themselves as much as possible- but also recognizing the risks they may face presenting themselves to immigration authorities. Citizens should be prepared to voice their support of immigrants to Congress and the media to not only protect the non-citizens, but those in the U.S. who benefit from them.
End of DACA/ end of the road for DAPA
Trump has pledged to end DACA when he takes office. As a program created by the President's executive authority, he is permitted to do this, and there is no reason to believe he will not. Also, while the court case for DAPA (deferred action for parents of citizens) is technically still pending, Trump will presumably stop that as well.
What can you do?
Those DACA beneficiaries able to extend their applications now should do so now. It is not clear what will happen if the extensions are still pending when Trump takes office, but it is possible that USCIS will expedite the review of the applications before the change, and those with pending applications are far more likely to get an extension than someone who waits.
That being said, even those with current DACA should be prepared for the program to potentially end with both the protection against deportation and work permits being cancelled. Also, those who are considering an initial filing should review with an attorney whether it is worth the risk of presenting yourself to immigration authorities given the uncertainty.
If DACA ends, hundreds of thousands of people will lose their jobs. This loss will be especially harsh if their work permits are suddenly cancelled. Not only will DACA beneficiaries be harmed, but so will their family members and their employers.
Trump was elected on a pro-business platform, and a mass layoff without little or no preparation time will undoubtedly hurt business. Businesses employing DACA beneficiaries should be prepared to tell their stories and increase pressure to not only prevent sudden layoffs, but perhaps even keep the program going for those who are already enrolled.
Trump has stated he will promptly deport all of the approximately eleven million people in the U.S. illegally. Not only would this be horrible for the United States, it would be nearly impossible without major changes in the law. As President, Trump could not change the law himself, but he can push Congress to do so, and can alter how the existing laws are enforced.
Generally, the government cannot simply deport people who are here illegally, because they are entitled by law to defend themselves in immigration court. Right now, the immigration court system is very backlogged, with about 400,000 cases stretching dockets past 2019. Adding over ten million people to this system would of course make the backlog far longer, with hearings scheduled well after Trump's first (and perhaps only) term.
It is possible that Trump could order changes in the immigration court to speed this process up- adding new judges, creating summary proceedings- but even those alterations would be slow, and would still have to comply with the law.
As a separate matter, Trump would have to locate people who are here illegally. Some of them may be found through criminal proceedings or if they have filed for immigration benefits and been denied, but it will be nearly impossible for them to find others without constitutional violations.
To be clear, Trump certainly could increase deportation levels. Many of the steps he would need to do this, however, provide opportunities to fight back.
What can you do?
Immigrants who are here illegally but have options to regularize their status, should consider doing so right away. This strategy, however, does carry some risk as it would require notifying the government of their status and location. Being here unlawfully has its own risks, however, and it may take some time for Trump to implement his changes. This means that those who wait may lose the chance to apply for provisional waivers or other opportunities. Whether to apply for benefits or not will therefore be a decision based on the circumstances of your case, and should not be made lightly.
If you are a lawful permanent resident eligible to apply for citizenship, please do so. As a citizen, you will be protected completely from deportation, and may be able to provide benefits to family members. You will also be able to vote.
If you are not an immigrant, still stay informed, and contact your Congressional offices to voice your support for immigrant rights. As explained above, Trump's ability to implement mass deportations will require changes in the existing law- which can only be done by Congress.
Banning Muslims, refugees, and others from entry?
There are far fewer protections for non-citizens who are outside of the United States seeking admission. Therefore, Trump's threats to ban large numbers of people from entering the country will take far less help from Congress to implement. There are some limited protections for people outside the U.S., and it's not clear an outright ban on members of an entire religion would be legal, but the extent of his powers would likely be decided by a court.
Therefore, it will very likely be much harder for millions of people to enter the United States, though we will have to see what happens to know much more.
What can you do?
Those outside the U.S. considering applying for a visa should do so soon. By extension, family or businesses looking to bring someone into the country should also move quickly and/or consider options if the visas are denied, such as working or meeting outside the U.S.
When there are the inevitable unfair denials, it will be important for those in the U.S. who are impacted to be sure to make their voices heard. This will not only include family and would-be employers, but those who will lose money if fewer people are allowed in, such as hotels, restaurants, and travel companies.
While the legal protections for those outside this country are limited, the people and businesses in the U.S. who will also suffer will have powerful stories that will hopefully influence the government's policies.
It is almost certain that a Trump presidency will be harmful to immigrants and their supporters. Nonetheless, there is still a chance to protect the immigrant rights which will be under attack.
Bean + Lloyd, LLP is an immigration law firm in Oakland, California, emphasizing family-based immigration, removal defense, and naturalization.
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