For this July 4th, I have asked Asel Mukambetova. an immigration attorney, to summarize how immigration has changed in the past few years. Asel is founder of Self-Lawyer, an online legal services platform focusing on immigration. She describes below four major initiatives by the Trump administration. This posting allows you to review them all at once. (In future posting Asel will describe other new barriers to immigration.)
Asel’s observations: As a practicing immigration attorney, I can say that access to permanent residence has significantly decreased. Since Trump became a president of the U.S. in 2017, his administration made a set of series changes in U.S. immigration policy. Some of the changes that had the most impact on the access to permanent residence are:
Changing Asylum Policies
To restrict the flow of immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, the Trump administration has undertaken several measures to change the criteria of those qualified for asylum under U.S. immigration law. The two most consequential measures include “Remain in Mexico” and “Border Crossing Asylum.”
The impact: Through figures obtained from the immigration courts and the Mexican government, SelfLawyer and others estimate that between 57,000 and 62,000 asylum seekers from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador had been sent to Mexico to wait for their cases to proceed through the U.S. immigration courts.
The original January 27, 2017 travel ban, Executive Order 13769, that suspended the refugee admission program for 120 days and called for a review of the screening and admission process, also lowered the admissions ceiling.
President Barack Obama had originally set admissions numbers for the fiscal year 2017 at 110,000. President Trump lowered the admissions to 50,000. President Trump has since repeatedly reset the refugee admissions cap at lower and lower levels.
The impact: According to SelfLawyer’s research, President Trump set the cap for 2018 at 45,000; however, only 22,491 were admitted. For 2019, the cap was set at 30,000; that cap was reached. The cap set for 2020 is 18,000.
United States State Department data shows that the admission of Muslim refugees had drastically declined (91% drop) between 2016 and September 2018 compared to Christian refugees (58% drop) in the same time period.
Defining Public Charge
On October 15, 2019, President Trump greatly expanded who can be considered a “public charge.” Under this new rule, a legal immigrant is a public charge if that person uses food stamps, subsidized housing, or certain Medicaid benefits for more than a year within a three-year window. Moreover, using two benefits in one month counts as two months. Under the rule, immigrants labeled a public charge are ineligible for green cards or visa extensions. In deciding who may someday be a public charge, the immigrants’ age, health, financial status, and educational background will be considered.
Another Presidential Proclamation went into effect on November 3, 2019. This proclamation states that the U.S. will only accept immigrant visa applications from persons who will be able to obtain health care in the U.S. within 30 days of arrival, or have the resources to pay for “reasonably foreseeable medical costs.”
The impact: The Department of Homeland Security estimates that approximately 382,000 green card applicants annually will be subject to review under the new public charge rule. DHS estimates that more than 324,000 will either be dropped or simply not enroll in public benefit programs.
The chilling effects of the rule could impact up to 10 million noncitizens, even those the rule doesn’t apply to, according to the Migrant Policy Institute. Moreover, The Urban Institute found that one in seven adults in immigrant families avoided public benefits in 2018 for fear it may put their green card at risk. A Migrant Policy Institute analysis found that the health insurance requirement could block 375,000 immigrants per year.
The Ending of Temporary Protected Status
The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security has failed to renew the TPS for persons from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan. As a result, citizens from these countries are subject to deportation, many of whom had been in the U.S. since the late 1990s and early 2000s. According to administration officials, the length of time these individuals have been in the U.S. correlates with who is selected.
The impact: According to USCIS data compiled by the Congressional Research Service and obtained by SelfLawyer, ending TPS would affect some 250,000 Salvadorans, 56,000 Haitians, 80,600 Hondurans, 14,500 Nepalis, 4,500 Nicaraguans, and 800 Sudanese.