The first months of President Trump’s administration have been a whirlwind of activity, and certainly immigration has been the subject of several executive orders and much controversy. The natural question that arises from all this activity is, “what has actually changed?” On the immigration front, the simplest answer is: not as much as all the activity and media coverage might lead one to believe. So, this synopsis will attempt to address things that have changed, things that might change, and things that haven’t actually changed at all.
Things that have changed
On January 25, President Trump signed two executive orders that arguably have had the most impact on U.S. immigration policy: “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” and “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvement.”
The first order, having to do with enhancing public safety, calls on federal agencies to step up interior enforcement activities that are designed to seek out and apprehend people who are not legally present in the United States. Our clients should take note of this order, because it has resulted in a marked increase in I-9 compliance audits, many of which have resulted in visits by federal officials to worksites to question and apprehend employees who are identified as illegally present during the I-9 review. Currently, it seems that Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security Investigations, the two agencies primarily responsible for I-9 and worksite compliance investigations, are willing to honor standing policy to be lenient with employers who are obviously doing their best to comply with I-9 regulations, even when some employees are determined to be illegally present. To take advantage of this leniency, though, employers must pay rapt attention to their I-9 compliance policies and conduct internal audits of their compliance as soon as possible. Once an employer receives notice of an I-9 compliance audit, it is too late to take any meaningful steps to show good faith in complying.
The second order has resulted in a harsher approach to dealing with individuals who are detained in deportation proceedings. The Obama Administration developed several policies encouraging agency prosecutors and administrative law judges to de-prioritize the deportation of illegal aliens who do not have a significant criminal history, and to grant relief when possible to illegal aliens who have ties to the U.S. President Trump’s order dismantles many of those policies and has resulted in a higher rate of deportation orders since its inception. Right or wrong, this change makes it much harder for those
illegally present to seek relief such as asylum, deferred action, parole, and other humanitarian forms of immigration benefits.
Things that might change
President Trump also targeted some legal immigration programs for review and possible reform. For example, he signed an executive order titled “Buy American and Hire American” on April 18, 2017. Many of us on Planet Immigration quaked in our boots a bit to see the H-1B visa program specifically mentioned. The H-1B visa program, which allows visas to be granted each year to 65,000 professionals holding a Bachelor’s degree (and an additional 20,000 who hold a Master’s degree), has been blamed for lay-offs in the technology sector, for driving down median salaries for professional jobs, and a host
of other evils over the years.
Download the full article, “Burr Alert: The First 100 Days on Planet Immigration” written by Anna L. Scully.