Updated: Jan 12
Imagine moving somewhere with the promise of new opportunity and having that opportunity snatched from you. The Trump administration has done exactly that. President Trump’s constant temper tantrums about the US-Mexico border and the need for increased control on immigration has become the background noise of his administration. He continues to take more and more drastic measures to try and “stop” the flow of unauthorized migrants into the US. Since 2019 the number of migrants that have come into the U.S has increased, this increase cannot be pinpointed to one specific reason. Among many reasons, officials claim that the rise in “express route” buses, that can take hundreds of migrants at a time through Mexico and into the United States in five or six days, are a major factor. Due to the risks being lower, many migrants who might have felt the chance of arriving in the U.S wasn’t worth the risks of a grueling and dangerous journey on foot, may reconsider. The other factor is Mexico. In December of 2018, the government in Mexico launched a program that made it easier for Central American migrants to get “humanitarian visas” which allowed them 90 days of legal status. However the government did not expect the influx of Central Americans seeking visas and shut down the program almost instantaneously. But, American officials still suspect this program made it much easier for migrants to come into the U.S and may have influenced more to come. With the increase of Central Americans coming into the U.S, it has become apparent that the failure on behalf of the Trump administration and the United States government to actively respond has pushed the U.S system to its breaking point and created a migrant crisis.
The Trump administration continues to make harmful changes to U.S immigration laws. While the administration’s cruel policies at the border and ramping up of deportations and immigration raids have garnered the most attention, its other efforts to transform legal immigration have been no less radical. Although the new immigration policies seem most concerned with Central America, it has not failed to earmark other countries too. President Trump has exploited the Covid-19 pandemic to implement anti-immigrant agendas. This agenda follows a series of attacks on legal immigration pathways including an expanded travel ban from African and Muslim majority countries, and a rapid dismantling of the asylum system. What’s more, the Trump administration has bypassed Congress’s lawmaking authority and used its executive powers to rewrite immigration policy.
Trump has attacked the legal immigration system in many ways over the course of his presidency, some of which are as follows:
Undermining asylum: The Trump administration’s repeated imposition of new restrictions on asylum seekers, has made it impossible for many people to claim protection in the United States. These restrictions include the denial of asylum to people if they have failed to apply for asylum in a previous country prior to arriving in the United States. This has sparked outrage within groups working with migrants and immigration attorneys, who say the rule is a violation of international and domestic immigration laws. However, most if not all lawsuits brought before the federal court have ruled in the favour of the administration. Further, the administration has used the pandemic as a cover to impose an even further, categorical ban on people seeking asylum, further endangering the lives of migrants.
Banning people from majority Muslim countries: Trump has expanded his Muslim ban over the course of his presidency. This order bars entry into the United States for almost everybody from a majority Muslim country, including Yemen, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Syria. Now while this may seem downright illegal to many people, sadly, the Supreme Court does not share the same view. Trump’s travel ban was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2019 in a 5-4 vote. Trump who has battled court challenges regarding this order since the beginning days of his presidency, viewed this as a “tremendous victory.” More recently in 2020, the administration has expanded its Muslim ban to target even more immigrants of colour including mostly African countries- such as Sudan, Nigeria, Tanzania and Eritrea.
Imposing a “wealth test” upon immigrants with legal status: In yet another instance of the Supreme Court allowing the Trump administration to make borderline illegal things, legal, is the wealth test for immigrants who currently have legal status in the United States. Essentially this policy punishes immigrants and their families for using certain public benefits such as Medicaid or food stamps. It forces them to prove they are wealthy enough to not rely on government assistance in the future. However, the good news is that litigation is still ongoing as of spring of 2020 and the implementation of the rule may be permanently halted if the final ruling is unfavourable to the administration.