Skip to navigation

Skip to main content

Rural Migration News

contact us

January 2017, Volume 23, Number 1

Trump Wins: Next Steps

Donald Trump was elected the 45th US president, defeating Hillary Clinton by 304 to 227 electoral votes. Some 139 million votes were cast; Clinton received 66 million votes and Trump 63 million. Clinton had her largest popular vote surplus in California, receiving 8.3 million votes compared to 4.3 million for Trump, while Trump received 4.7 million votes compared to 3.9 million for Clinton in Texas.

About 90 percent of Democrats voted for Clinton, and 90 percent of Republicans voted for Trump. Whites voted 58-37 percent for Trump, while Blacks voted 88 to eight percent for Clinton. Asians and Hispanics voted for Clinton by 65 to 29 percent margins. Persons with a high-school education or less voted 51 to 45 percent for Trump, while those with post-graduate education voted 58 to 37 percent for Clinton. Voters for whom immigration was the most important issue voted 64 to 32 percent for Trump.

Republicans retained control of Congress, with diminished majorities in the House (now 241-194) and Senate (52-48). Republicans control two-thirds of the 99 state legislatures, making theirs the dominant political party at every level of government.

The immediate Trump priorities include cutting taxes and reducing climate and labor regulations, repealing or revising the Affordable Care Act, and confirming conservative federal judges. There are disagreements among Republicans on trade, on making Social Security sustainable, and on foreign policy, especially toward Russia and the Middle East.

Trump campaigned on seven items, including two that dealt with illegal migration, building a wall on the Mexico-US border and deporting the 11 million unauthorized foreigners in the US. Clinton listed 30+ priorities, including "legalization with a path to citizenship." If Congress failed to act, Clinton promised to reintroduce and expand Obama's Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program.

Trump opposed DAPA and threatened to cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA, created by executive order in 2012, grants temporary legal status to unauthorized foreigners brought to the US as children, while DAPA would have given temporary legal status to adults with legal US children. Some 741,000 unauthorized foreigners who arrived as youth have been granted DACA status, and over 600,000 have had their status renewed; a third are in California.

Trump's hard line on illegal immigration was echoed in the Republican Party platform, which calls for less legal immigration, saying "immigration policy must serve the national interest of the United States, and the interests of American workers must be protected over the claims of foreign nationals seeking the same jobs." The Republican platform also opposed "any form of amnesty for those who, by breaking the law, have disadvantaged those who have obeyed it."

Trump's first migration policy changes may reverse the actions taken by President Obama. He might, for example, restart the Secure Communities program under which state and local police inform DHS when they encounter suspected unauthorized foreigners. There are an estimated 650 miles of barriers on the Mexico-US border, including 350 miles to deter people from crossing and 200 miles of vehicle barriers. Trump may add fencing on the 2,000-mile Mexico-US border, increase the number of Border Patrol agents, and slow or stop accepting Muslim refugees.

Trump in November 2016 spoke of deporting two to three million foreigners convicted of US crimes. DHS estimated in 2012 that there were 1.9 million "removable criminal aliens" in the US, including 183,000 with final deportation orders; half are unauthorized, and the rest are legal immigrants. The Migration Policy Institute estimated that 820,000 or 43 percent of these criminal aliens are unauthorized.

The US deported 240,255 foreigners in FY16, bringing the total for President Obama's eight years in office to almost 2.8 million.

During the campaign, Trump talked approvingly of Operation Wetback, which removed over a million unauthorized foreigners in the mid-1950s and was followed by a relaxation of regulations for employing Bracero farm workers. There is bipartisan support for expanding the sectors of agriculture that can hire H-2A workers for three years from sheep to crops and dairies.

Trump in December 2016 said that his administration would crack down on visa abuses that harm American workers and prioritize native-born people over foreigners: "We will put our people ? not people from other lands, our people ? back to work." It is not clear whether Trump would restart the workplace raids that were suspended under Obama.

Under George W. Bush, ICE conducted workplace raids, especially of meatpacking plants. Workplace raids peaked in 2006-07, after the Senate approved comprehensive immigration reforms and the House did not act. One of the largest raids was in December 2006 at six Swift & Company meatpacking plants that led to the arrest of 1,282 unauthorized workers. Swift was sold to Brazil's JBS in 2007; JBS is the world's largest beef packer.

There may be more audits of the I-9 forms that employers and newly hired employees complete to force employers to raise wages and recruit US workers. During the Obama Administration, some 8,900 employers were audited, and ICE imposed $100 million in fines on employers who did not complete paperwork properly or who did not fire unauthorized workers. I-9 audits usually prompt employers to fire unauthorized workers, but most of the dismissed workers do not leave the US.

If Trump steps up enforcement against illegal migration, he could persuade Congress to require all employers to use the internet-based E-Verify system under which employers voluntarily submit information from new hires to verify their legal status. Currently, federal contractors and employers in some states must use E-Verify, which puts them on notice that particular workers are unauthorized and may subject them to fines for knowingly hiring such workers.

Many business leaders say they would accept mandatory E-Verify if expanded, revised and new guest worker programs were instituted. Employers say they prefer legal to illegal workers, but cannot find US workers to fill jobs. Under this scenario, Trump's first year could focus on enforcement and guest workers.

The comprehensive immigration reforms debated over the past decade have had three major elements: more border enforcement and E-Verify, legalization for most unauthorized foreigners in the US, and revised and new guest worker programs. The compromise at the heart of comprehensive immigration reform was more enforcement favored by Republicans, who focused on policies to prevent unauthorized foreigners from entering the US and finding jobs, while Democrats wanted a path to citizenship for unauthorized foreigners. Many of the debates in Congress centered on the path from unauthorized to US citizenship status.

A new focus on enforcement and guest workers led by Republicans could draw opposition from Democrats and expose intra-party differences among Republicans. Some Republicans assert that employers have been too quick to hire guest workers, rejecting qualified US workers; while others say that employers turn to guest workers only because they cannot find qualified US workers.

Trump attacked sanctuary cities during the campaign, the 500 cities and other local governments whose police do not cooperate with DHS to find and deport unauthorized foreigners. The sanctuary movement began in the mid-1980s after the Reagan administration gave refugee status to those fleeing Central American regimes that the US opposed, but not to those fleeing regimes the US supported. Eventually, most Central Americans in the US became immigrants.

A new church-based sanctuary movement may be emerging. According to the Sanctuary Movement, over 450 churches are offering sanctuary to foreigners the US government is trying to deport.

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who headed Judiciary's Immigration Subcommittee, was nominated to be Attorney General. Sessions has opposed illegal immigration and new guest worker programs. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) will continue to head the Judiciary Committee. Grassley has been critical of the H-1B and EB-1 programs, and may re-introduce bills to require more US employers of H-1B foreigners to first try to recruit US workers.

Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) may emerge as a leading restrictionist. In a December 28, 2016 New York Times Op-Ed Cotton downplayed concerns of farmers who are "begging for workers" and restaurants asserting that they "can't survive without Mexican workers." He said "higher wages, better benefits and more security for American workers are features, not bugs, of sound immigration reform."

Reactions. Most migrant rights groups expect to be on the defensive during the Trump administration, fighting efforts to step up enforcement against unauthorized foreigners and to deport foreigners. Here to Stay, supported by unions and NGOs, organized demonstrations in 50 cities January 14, 2017 that called on Trump to extend the DACA program and to urge legalization instead of deportation for unauthorized foreigners.

California's lieutenant governor, Gavin Newsom, in January 2017 suggested that the state may use its environmental laws to block construction of more fencing on the Mexico-US border. The state legislature is considering bills to provide state benefits to unauthorized foreigners, including an earned-income tax credit for low earners. Some say that California may be to Trump what Texas was to Obama, a state that sued the Obama administration over 40 times to block his initiatives.

Other groups argued that there is room for bipartisan consensus on some reforms, such as coupling mandatory employer use of E-Verify with new and expanded guest worker programs. Some urge a program that gives a legal status to some of the unauthorized but not a path to citizenship.

Arizona. Arizona in 2008 and 2010 enacted laws to make it more difficult for employers to hire unauthorized workers and for unauthorized foreigners to remain in the state. Pew estimated that the number of unauthorized foreigners fell 40 percent between 2007 and 2012 in Arizona, compared to a drop of eight percent across the US. There are about 6.8 million people in Arizona, including 30 percent who are Latino.

Arizona's minimum wage rose from $5.15 to $6.75 in 2007 and then rose further with inflation. Wage gains by occupation were uneven, with janitors and cooks seeing wages rising faster than the minimum wage, but not farm workers and landscapers. Some employers complained that they found it harder to recruit "good workers."

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, 84, lost his bid for a seventh term in November 2016 with a 45-55 percent loss to Paul Penzone, a former Phoenix police sergeant. Arpaio became notorious for conducting sweeps of Hispanic neighborhoods in search of unauthorized foreigners and for requiring prisoners to wear pink underwear.

Subscribe via Email

Click here to subscribe to Rural Migration News via email.