Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What Can We Come to Expect of U.S. Immigration Under a Trump Administration?

By Michelle Alonzo

With the dust settling after the U.S. Presidential Election, we now look to President-elect Donald Trump, who is poised to be the nation’s 45th President.  Mr. Trump laid out his plan for immigration reform during a speech in October and labeled it his contract with the American voter.  But when it comes to immigration, questions quickly follow as to how these measures, much publicized during the campaign for the presidency, will be carried out.

With only a week since the election returns were tallied, we have already begun to see a shift in tone coming from the President-elect.  As Mr. Trump assembles his administration’s leadership team, many are wondering if Mr. Trump’s more conciliatory tone means we can expect a more measured approach to his plan for immigration.  Perhaps.  

One of the cornerstones of the President-elect’s agenda has been the restoration of the rule of law.  Even assuming the doubtful presumption that the rule of law is lacking in the current administration’s immigration policy, it obviously follows that enforcement will be a required component.  While such enforcement is a recurring theme of the President-elect’s immigration plan, it begs the question of how such enforcement will be funded and how it is to be staffed.

For example, in 2012 President Obama introduced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an executive action initiative that was intended to shield young undocumented immigrants, brought over as children, from deportation and grant them work authorization for 2 years.  In applying for the program, applicants divulged much personal information – where they work, where they live.  They’ve obtained driver’s licenses and have had some sense of security that as long as they have no criminal history, generally speaking, they can be assured of some sense of normalcy.  It is not hard to imagine that the President-elect’s plan to eliminate DACA has injected an element of distrust and suspicion in those young immigrants.  Adopting a “wait and see” approach is an easy one when you’re not the one holding a DACA permit, but at this juncture, there is no other option.  Reports from at least one news outlet indicate that the Trump transition team will not respond to requests for a definitive outline on whether the soon-to-be nascent administration plans to eliminate, modify, or discontinue the DACA program.

For now it seems we are all waiting to see how this plays out.  As the new administration fills out its ranks, it remains to be seen as to whether the new conciliatory tone will be adopted in policy measures.  President Obama has said that the realities of the presidency will play into policy decisions for the new administration.  Whether the campaign promises on immigration were mere rhetoric, or whether they were the product of some measure of thoughtfulness, there are many who are ready for Mr. Trump to check off his laundry list of action items.  Nevertheless, it’s unlikely we will know – at least in the short term – how the realities of the presidency will affect the campaign’s proffered plan.

Return to list.