IMMIGRATION POLICY IS UNCHANGED FOR MOST PEOPLE SEEKING ENTRY INTO THE USA
President Trump has stirred controversy with his immigration policies, but the controversy has given birth to unwarranted and misplaced fears. For the most part, immigration during the Donald Trump presidency is proceeding just as it did during the Barack Obama presidency.
Taking a closer look at the new policies should ease the minds of potential immigrants who fear that the path to permanent residence in the United States has been blocked. For most people, the path to living and working in the United States is no different than it was in the past.
Policy ChangesPresident Trump has never said that he intends to curtail all legal immigration into the United States. The focus of his campaign speeches and of his developing immigration policy has been on unauthorized entry into the United States. The president has made clear that he wants to prevent noncitizens from entering the United States who have not obtained permission to enter -- usually in the form of a visa.
Most of the immigration policy changes that the new administration has implemented are focused on deporting individuals who entered the country without a visa. Those policy changes include:
o Prioritizing the deportation of individuals who have been charged with or convicted of any crime, rather than giving priority to the deportation of individuals who had been convicted of a serious crime.
o Detaining individuals who are apprehended after they enter the country without a visa, rather than releasing them if they request asylum until their request is decided.
o Expediting the removal of individuals who entered the United States without a visa and have not stayed long.
Whether these policies are good or bad is a matter of perspective, but none of them affect immigrants who have entered, or want to enter, the United States legally. No person who has been granted, or who applies for, a green card, an immigrant investor visa, a tourist visa, a student visa, a diversity immigrant visa, a fiance visa, or any other authorization to enter the United States will be affected by the changes in deportation policies.
Travel BanMuch of the news coverage concerning President Trump's immigration policies has focused on what the press calls his "travel ban." The president signed an executive order that was intended to impose short-term restrictions on entry into the United States from seven countries. The order also delayed the entry of refugees from all countries into the United States. The order was quickly blocked by federal courts and is being replaced by a revised order that is more narrowly focused.
The new order was signed on March 6, 2017. It imposes a 90-day period during which visitors from five countries -- Somalia, Sudan, Iran, Libya, and Yemen -- may not enter the United States. It also imposes a 120-day period during which refugees from Syria may not enter the country.
The first order caused confusion because it was not clear whether the order applied to permanent residents and other visa holders who were returning to the United States. The new order makes clear that it does not apply to those visa holders.
The president stated that the order was meant only to delay entry of refugees, as well as people holding passports from the named countries, until a more comprehensive screening program could be developed to do a more thorough background check of individuals seeking to enter the country. It is not intended as a permanent measure to ban travel from the named countries.
Rumors have circulated around the world that the "travel ban" prevents all immigrants from entering the United States. Those rumors are untrue. The delayed entry is limited to people seeking to enter the United States from the six countries identified above. Whether or not legal challenges will be made to the revised order, there is no reason to believe that immigrants entering the United States from other countries will be affected by the president's executive order.
The Future of ImmigrationWhether President Trump will make or propose other changes to immigration laws in the United States is not yet known. The basic immigration laws can only be changed by Congress. The president has limited authority to decide how those laws will be implemented, but it is not clear whether and how he would use that authority to reduce the number of legal immigrants to the United States. He has suggested that he wants to reduce the rate at which refugees enter the United States, but has not yet proposed a plan to do so.
The number of new permanent legal residents of the United States has fluctuated from decade to decade. Immigrants make up almost 15% of the population in the United States, a percentage that has grown steadily since 1970. Even if the number of green card approvals will level off or decline during the next year, it seems likely that a substantial number of new immigrant visas will continue to be approved.
Of course, there have always been limits on the number of new immigrants accepted into the United States each year, and immigration applications have always been screened. Individuals with criminal records find it especially difficult to obtain an immigrant visa. But those difficulties at present are no different than they were before President Trump was elected.
The bottom line is this: If you want to pursue immigration to the United States, there is no reason to worry that any policy announced to date will affect your application. Since nobody can predict the future, it is better to move forward with your immigration plans now than to wait. And keep in mind that an experienced immigration attorney can give you up-to-the-minute advice about the impact that any future changes in immigration policy might have on your application.