Reflections after the election

I want to give you some thoughts about the future, after the results of the presidential election.

I do not know whether we will get any significant changes in immigration laws during the next 4 years.  It is possible, but it is also possible that there might not be changes.  It will depend on the priorities of the Trump Administration and on the actions of Congress.

For persons who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, the election of Donald Trump should not result in any particularly new or different problems for you with respect to U.S. immigration laws.

For everyone else, if there are significant changes in immigration laws, the laws might actually help, or they might make things worse.  At this time, we just don’t know.  If there are changes in the laws, we also don’t know how quickly or slowly such changes might occur.  Things in Washington often move more slowly than we might think at first.

It is possible that the way cases are handled by the various immigration agencies will become stricter, but that also will not happen overnight.  There are thousands of immigration officials employed at USCIS, ICE, and CBP (Customs and Border Protection), and so if there are changes in procedures, they might happen slowly, if at all.  At this time, we just don’t know what changes in procedures might occur.

Probably most of the thousands of current employees in the federal government will remain working at their jobs.  Most will probably continue to handle cases the same way that they have been handling them up to now.  It is possible that the Trump Administration could call for changes in the way that cases are handled, but again, many of those changes (if any) take time to be implemented.

Some programs, such as the I-601A Provisional Waiver Program, remain in place.  A program such as I-601A could only be changed through an official process, which could take 6 months or longer.

Other programs, such as DACA, could be eliminated more quickly.  The future of DACA as of January 20, 2016 is uncertain.

I think that it is possible that CBP (the officials at the airports and the borders) might become tougher and stricter in their encounters with persons traveling into the United States.  I always advise that you communicate with me before you travel.  Now, with the election results, I want you to know that you might possibly face a more difficult encounter with CBP when you return to the United States.  We don’t know how CBP might change the way they do their job.  At this time, the best we can say is that they might become more strict.

For persons who have cases in Immigration Court, and whose cases have been administratively closed, the future is uncertain.  There exists the possibility that the new administration could order ICE to continue with your case in Immigration Court.  At this time, we do not know what the new administration might, or might not, do with cases that have been administratively closed.  If your case returns to the Immigration Court, or to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), then we will have the right to continue to argue on your behalf to try to obtain any immigration benefits in Immigration Court or the BIA to which you may be entitled.

Adjudicators will not instantly start deciding cases differently from how they are doing it now. A case that would be approved today will be approved in the first few months of Trump’s presidency. There could be rapid change in specific types of cases due to a policy change – DACA is the most likely target of such a policy change – but the majority of cases will be decided the same as before.

New administrations can change how things are done, but there are laws preventing that from happening too quickly.

For cases that we are currently preparing, I expect we will be able to finish before substantial, sweeping change takes place. I cannot promise that a sudden policy change won’t affect your case, but I believe it is unlikely. The best thing to do is carry on and try to finish as quickly as possible. You can help me in that regard by providing me with requested information and documentation as quickly as possible when I request it. The sooner we finish your case, the better.

You will have questions that I will be unable to answer because I do not know the future. My promise to you is that I will do the best possible job on your case. Do not despair. Keep moving forward.

If after reading this you still have questions, please send them and I will respond as soon as I can.

What are the chances for immigration reform?

Now that the Senate has passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill, the House has the opportunity to address the issue.  What will the House do?

 It appears that, in the short term, there is little political incentive for House Republicans to pass comprehensive immigration reform.  Of the 435 voting members in the House of Representatives, Republicans hold 234 seats, while Democrats hold 201.  As Janet Hook reports in the Wall Street Journal, of the 234 Republican members of the House, only 38 Republican members represent congressional districts that have Latino populations of 20 percent or higher.  And only 28 Republican members face even a small risk of a serious challenge by Democratic candidates in the 2014 House elections.  As a result, it seems that, for now, House Republicans would have little to gain politically by voting for an immigration reform package.  Moreover, many House Republicans would stand to face criticism from their congressional districts and possible election challenges from more conservative candidates, if they were to vote for a comprehensive immigration package.

 Long-term demographics, however, may play a role in the voting decisions of some House Republicans.  It appears that some states, including Texas and Arizona, that currently tend to vote for Republicans in local, state, and national elections, will likely be shifting over time towards electing Democratic candidates.  If, and when, such shifts will occur is anybody’s guess.  But some House Republicans might take these factors into account and consider the increasing electoral clout of Latinos and other immigrant groups.  Although currently most House Republicans face few serious electoral challenges from Democrats, they likely will face such challenges in the next 3 to 5 electoral cycles.

 For now, it is impossible to predict whether or not the House of Representatives will pass comprehensive immigration legislation.  It is also impossible to predict whether, if the House passes legislation, the Senate and President Obama will agree to sign such legislation.

 

Call for Obama to improve the immigration system

The New York Times has called for President Obama to use his powers as President to fix some of the most pressing problems in the immigration system.  Among the issues that President Obama could address are the following:

  • End the “Secure Communities” program, which many law enforcement officials have criticized.  The program was aimed at removing dangerous criminals from the United States, but appears to be used instead to remove many who have clean records.
  • Grant relief from deportation for those individuals who would qualify under the DREAM Act.
  • Allow immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens to become lawful permanent residents without having to leave the United States.

Please click here to read the New York Times editorial.

Opinion: “Border Security First” Advocates Block Real Immigration Reform

The Center for American Progress recently published a thoughtful opinion piece criticizing the focus of some legislators on obtaining an impossibly secure border before considering comprehensive immigration reform.

The authors of this piece argue that, although border security is important, legislators should pursue that goal along with, and not instead of, comprehensive immigration reform.

Click here to read the opinion piece.

 

Gov. Snyder renews call for more immigrants in Michigan

Gov. Rick Snyder called for more immigrants to settle in Michigan, after reviewing recent U.S. Census data showing that Michigan is the only state that had an overall loss of population from 2000 to 2010.

Speaking recently at an annual “Michigan Muslim Capitol Day” event, Gov. Snyder said, “We need to celebrate diversity; it’s one of our strengths. One of the things I’m proud to say I’m already encouraging, that was in my state of the state message, is the idea of more immigration, particularly for advanced degree people.”

Click here to read more about Gov. Snyder’s speech.

Arizona legislature defeats anti-immigrant bills

In the Arizona state legislature, a group of state senate Republicans joined Democrats in defeating a series of anti-immigrant bills.

Leading the drive against the bills were many of Arizona’s largest employers, who signed a letter to a top Arizona legislator explaining their opposition to the bills.

“Arizona’s lawmakers and citizens are right to be concerned about illegal immigration. But we must acknowledge that when Arizona goes it alone on this issue, unintended consequences inevitably occur,” the letter states.

“It is an undeniable fact that each of our companies and our employees were impacted by the boycotts and the coincident negative image.”

Here is a link to the article.

More editorials oppose Michigan’s proposed anti-immigrant bill

The editorial opinions against House Bill 4305 continue to accumulate.

The Times Herald, a news source from Port Huron, Michigan, recently published an editorial against the proposed anti-immigrant legislation, stating, “Police resources should be devoted to upholding public safety.  Officers need to be able to make arrests when they have evidence that someone has committed a crime, not spend their time investigating whether someone is in the country illegally.”

The Holland Sentinel, a publication based in Holland, Michigan, cautioned that HB 4305 would amount to racial profiling:  “HB 4305 might be justifiable if all Americans — whether it’s someone whose ancestors came over on the Mayflower or a Somali immigrant who took the naturalization oath last week — were required to carry citizenship papers, but that’s not the case. An Arizona-style law would create a discriminatory system, effectively requiring hundreds of thousands of non-white Michigan residents — people just as American as their white neighbors — to carry papers with them proving their legal status.”

Former USCIS official criticizes Obama Administration and Congress

Roxana Bacon, a former top counsel for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), sharply criticized the Obama Administration and Congress for failing to act on immigration reform measures while at the same time engaging in harsh enforcement of current immigration laws.

In a recent article published in an Arizona law journal, Bacon stated, referring to the nation’s capitol, “I know that D.C.’s collective ostriching is not a viable strategy. . . . The reasons — demographic, national security and economic — are all around us.”

“We need visionary thinking and incisive analysis grounded on economic truths to create the functioning immigration policy the nation needs,” Bacon wrote. “None of this is likely to come from this Congress, or from this Administration.”

Bacon criticized the enforcement of immigration laws against certain people brought into the United States illegally when they were children, through no fault of their own.  “Punishing them is like jailing a one-year-old for not wearing a seat belt,” Bacon wrote.  Referring to the failed effort in Congress to pass the DREAM Act, a proposal to create a path to legalization for these young people, Bacon stated, “Even the most reactive voices acknowledge that the Dream Act kids cannot all be deported; rather, almost all will stay here.  The only issue is whether we set them up for failure or maximize their contribution.  Remarkably, we opted for failure.”

To read Roxana Bacon’s complete article, please click here.

NY Times editorial: Push back against Arizona-style legislation

The New York Times continues its recent string of editorials regarding immigration with a piece commending the citizens of many states for resisting state-level anti-immigrant legislation.

According to the editorial, “In dozens of states considering such crackdowns — including Nebraska, Indiana, Oklahoma, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas — elected officials, law enforcers, business owners, religious leaders and regular citizens are providing the calm voices and cool judgment that are lacking in the shimmering heat of Phoenix.”

“They are reminding their representatives that replacing federal immigration policy with a crazy quilt of state-led enforcement schemes is only a recipe for more lawlessness and social disruption, for expensive lawsuits and busted budgets, lost jobs and boycotts. And all without fixing the problem.”

To access the complete editorial, click here.