Trump Administration Lays Out Immigration Policy Principles
Legislative Update By: Liz Jacobs
On Sunday, October 8, President Trump delivered his administration’s immigration policy principles to House and Senate leaders. (White House Immigration Principles) Following the administration’s announcement to wind down President Obama’s unlawful Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) amnesty program, lawmakers have begun discussing potential changes to U.S. immigration law. (Id.) Therefore, the White House released these principles to outline reforms that must be included as part of any legislation addressing the status of illegal alien DACA recipients. (Id.) Specifically, the principles prioritize the interests of American citizens and legal residents by addressing border security, interior enforcement, and the creation of a merit-based immigration system. (Id.)
The three-part plan largely echoes the President’s campaign promises, emphasizes public safety, and reflects the recommendations of the bipartisan Jordan Commission, signed on to by President Bill Clinton. (Id.) “Rather than asking what policies are supported by special interests, we asked America's law enforcement professionals to identify reforms that are vital to protect the national interest,” President Trump explained. (Id.) “In response, they identified dangerous loopholes, outdated laws, and easily exploited vulnerabilities in our immigration system – current policies that are harming our country and our communities.” (Id.)
The first component of the president’s plan calls for bona fide border security. Specifically, the White House recommends:
- Completing construction of the border wall;
- Closing loopholes in immigration law in order to ensure the prompt removal of illegal aliens who are apprehended near the border. The administration reported that approximately 38,500 unaccompanied alien minors (UAMs) and 71,500 members of family units have been apprehended at the border this fiscal year, however the vast majority were released, with less than 4 percent of UAMs in FY 2016 returned to their home countries;
- Tighten administrative standards to address asylum fraud and abuse. The administration noted that lax legal standards for claiming asylum has led to a backlog of 270,000 affirmative asylum cases with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and 250,000 in the Immigration Courts; and
- Reduce the massive judicial backlog of illegal border crossers through expedited removal. Currently, immigration courts have a backlog of over 600,000 cases, preventing the removal of illegal border-crossers. The administration reported it takes an average of 682 days to complete a single immigration case.
The second component of the president’s plan strengthens the federal government’s ability to enforce immigration law across the United States. To support interior enforcement, the White House recommends:
- Stripping federal funding from sanctuary cities that put its residents at risk by shielding criminal aliens from enforcement;
- Supporting and incentivizing state and local cooperation with federal immigration authorities;
- Adding an additional 10,000 ICE officers and 300 Federal prosecutors to handle immigration cases;
- Addressing visa overstays, which accounts for an estimated 40 percent of illegal immigration to the United States;
- Protecting American workers from unfair competition by requiring employers to use E-Verify to confirm the work eligibility of new hires; and
- Improving visa security to combat visa fraud.
The last component of the president’s plan calls for the creation of a more merit-based immigration. The recommendations here are closely echoed by the Jordan Commission’s report on legal immigration and are currently addressed in the RAISE Act (S. 1720). To accomplish this, the White House asks for:
- An end to extended-family chain migration by limiting family-based green cards to include spouses and minor children;
- Prioritize admission by immigrants who are most likely to succeed in the United States by establishing a point-based system that protects American workers and taxpayers, encourages assimilation, and ensures new immigrant’s financial self-sufficiency;
- Eliminate the visa lottery that awards 50,000 green cards at random to foreign nationals, many of whom have absolutely no ties to the United States, no special skills, and limited education; and
- Align the level of refugee admissions with American interests and reducing fraud in the program by enhancing screening processes.
In a press release, FAIR applauded the White House’s sweeping immigration reform plan. “The administration’s detailed plan to regain control of the nation’s dysfunctional immigration enforcement policies while moving our legal immigration system to a merit-based model that includes a return to more traditional levels of immigration is an enormous win for American workers, national security and the nation as a whole,” FAIR President Dan Stein said. (FAIR Press Release, Oct. 8, 2017) FAIR encourages its members to call their representatives and urge them to support legislation in line with the president’s true immigration reform principles.