Immigration Challenges of a Trump Presidency

On Wednesday, November 16 at 6:30, Catherine Tactaquin, the Executive Director of the National Network for Immigration and Refugee Rights will speak at the Colleges of Law on “New President, New Policies: What is the Future of Immigration in the U.S.?”

During the 2016 presidential election, the Democratic and Republican party platforms were markedly different on the issue of immigration policy. With the President-Elect set for a January inauguration, Tactaquin will discuss both party platforms and what these positions mean for a fair and just immigration policy, especially in light of current domestic sentiment and the ongoing global migration crisis. RSVP today.

For the immigrant rights movement, we would be mistaken to only look at specific immigration-related concerns with the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States. We all need to be concerned about ramifications for health care access and other social protections, for example.

But Trump launched his campaign on the denigration of immigrants and the promise to “build a wall” (meaning, keep those ‘others’ out). And his “first 100 days” plan heavily focuses on his immigration policy wish list, including deporting millions of undocumented immigrants and submitting legislation to fund the construction of the wall.

Of course, there are big differences between the campaign promises of Donald Trump and the pathway and ability for a President Trump to see them through. Many issues require congressional approval, or at least the authorization of more funding. There are many political and legal obstacles—and as most new presidents find, their campaign wishes and honeymoon period plans take much longer to achieve or never materialize.

That said, Trump’s victory has triggered widespread concerns and fears in many immigrant communities and there are already reports of harassment and outright abuse of immigrants that appear to be directly tied to the Trump election.

What happens to the Dreamers?

A significant issue is the concern for the more than 700,000 young immigrant recipients of the DACA program – the “Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrivals” program created through executive action by President Obama in June 2012. DACA created a temporary reprieve for certain undocumented children, and allowed them to continue with schooling, have work authorization, and even travel out of the country. Some states have provided additional supports, and a number of universities and scholarship programs provided support and scholarships to assist DACA recipients to go to college.

For the most part, this has been a program with strong public support. Obama’s attempt to expand this program and to provide a similar opportunity for the parents of U.S. citizen children was legally challenged by a group of Republican-controlled states. The challenge went up to the Supreme Court, where a tied vote following Justice Scalia’s death left in place a ban on implementation of the programs.

President-Elect Trump says that on his first day in office he will cancel every executive action by President Obama, including revoking DACA. This would place at risk the deportation of all the DACA recipients, who are registered with the government. Already, conference calls among these Dreamers, as they have come to be known, have sought to clarify possible scenarios, provide emotional and legal support, and rally a movement to block any attempt to dismantle the program.

On building that literal and metaphorical wall

The DACA case is just one example of the very serious consequences of the election. President Trump vowed to cancel federal funding to Sanctuary Cities—those municipalities that have promised not to provide local police cooperation with federal immigration enforcement efforts. Seattle has already stood to say they will honor their commitment as a Sanctuary City. Trump has alluded to the registration of Muslims in this country, and plans to suspend immigration from what he calls “terrorism-prone” regions. This could include countries like the Philippines, a country with longstanding immigration to the U.S., and where people like myself, as a Filipino-American, maintain close ties.
While more funds to expand the border wall must be approved by Congress, the message that has been conveyed—to keep “them” out—will continue to fuel racism and xenophobia, and even vigilante action against immigrants, especially in the border region where there are already armed militias on the lookout for migrants.

The international ripple effect

The effects of a Trump presidency may also be felt at the international level, where the U.S. has been engaged in a new initiative at the United Nations to forge global compacts on migration and on refugees, with an aim of growing positive resolutions towards an acknowledged “migration crisis”—especially to provide for safe, regular, and orderly migration.

A President Trump intends to cancel payments to UN programs for climate change. Yet, addressing climate change needs to be a priority for all on this planet. How does climate change connect to immigration? More than 25 million people around the world have already been displaced due to the effects of climate change, and the number grows every single day.

Immigrants—and all of us—should be greatly concerned with a new era that is fast approaching. We absolutely need to reject the politics of fear and division sown in this past presidential campaign and work together for a promising and hopeful society, and for our role in an interconnected world.