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April 2017, Volume 23, Number 2

Trump: Executive Orders

President Trump issued three executive orders during his first week in office, setting in motion plans to build a wall on the 2,000 mile Mexico-US border, increase deportations, and reduce refugee admissions. Trump said: "Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its borders."

Trump ordered DHS to plan the construction of a wall on the Mexico-US border and to beef up enforcement against unauthorized migration by adding 5,000 Border Patrol agents to the current 21,000 and to add 10,000 ICE agents to the current 10,000 to detect and remove unauthorized foreigners inside the US. Trump said that Mexico would pay for the wall, if necessary with a 20 percent tax on Mexican imports.

Trump reinstated the 287(g) or Secure Communities program that allows DHS to train state and local law police to identify and detain unauthorized foreigners. Between 2006 and 2013, Secure Communities led to 175,000 deportations. Some 2.7 million unauthorized foreigners were deported during the eight-year Obama administration.

In March 2017, DOJ announced that it would withhold funds from sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with DHS, but did not spell out exactly what constituted non-cooperation. State and local governments cannot prohibit their employees from sharing information on foreign criminals with the federal government, and a 1996 law allows DOJ to withhold DOJ grants from jurisdictions that do not provide information. The 10th amendment limits the power of the federal government over states, but the federal government can refuse to provide money to states that refuse to cooperate to achieve federal goals.

Trump expanded the definition of criminals subject to deportation to include those charged, though not necessarily convicted, of US crimes, and foreigners who pose a risk to public safety or national security. A new office, Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (Voice), will provide victims of crime with information about their attackers immigration status and whether they are in jail.

Trump's third executive order suspended the admission of refugees for 120 days, blocked the entry of Syrian refugees indefinitely, reduced planned refugee resettlements in the US in FY17 from 110,000 to 50,000, and banned entries for 90 days from seven countries: Syria, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Yemen. Several states sued to overturn the bar on admissions from these seven countries, and federal courts blocked its implementation, permitting an estimated 60,000 foreigners to enter the US.

Trump issued a new executive order on March 6, 2017 that bars the issuance of new visas to nationals of six countries (not Iraq), but permits green-card holders from these countries to travel in and out of the US. The second EO was blocked by two federal judges who cited Trump's campaign pledges to stop Muslim immigration as reasons why Trump's order was unconstitutional religious discrimination.

The US admitted 785,000 refugees since September 11, 2001, including a dozen who were arrested or removed from the US due to terrorism concerns. Some 3.2 million refugees were admitted since 1975, including 85,000 in FY16, of whom 72 percent were women and children. In FY16, 38,900 Muslim and 37,500 Christian refugees were admitted.

Trump addressed a joint session of Congress on February 28, 2017, emphasizing the importance of border security and deporting criminal foreigners but suggesting that unauthorized foreigners in the US could obtain some kind of legal status. Trump advocated more high-skilled migrants, praising the Canadian point or merit system that gives priority to young foreigners who are educated, have Canadian job offers, and know English or French.

About two-thirds of legal US immigrants are admitted because they have relatives in the US who sponsor them. The Senate's Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 would have introduced a Canadian-style point system that would have favored the entry of foreigners with more education and skills, but also included points for foreigners with US relatives. Spokespersons for agriculture, construction and restaurants disagreed with Trump, saying that the US also needed low-skilled migrants to fill low-skilled jobs.

Most of the eight million unauthorized workers in the US are low-skilled. Farmers, construction firms, and restaurants and hotels say unauthorized workers are vital to their operations. One legislative package being discussed would require all employers to use E-Verify, the internet-based system that allows employers to submit data on new hires to verify their authority to work, and ease regulations governing low-skilled guest workers. Making it harder to hire unauthorized workers and easier to hire legal guest workers, this reasoning goes, would reduce the employment of the unauthorized.

Congress. The Republicans who control Congress have rejected comprehensive immigration reform in favor of piecemeal or incremental changes. Some say that the BRIDGE Act (S 128 and HR 496) to protect DACA recipients for three years could be tied to a requirement that all employers participate in E-Verify, the internet-based system that checks work-authorization documents provided by newly hired workers, within one year (S 179).

Some restrictionists say they would agree to put DACA youth on a path to immigrant status if Congress also eliminated the diversity lottery and immigrant visas for adult brothers and sisters of US citizens. Others say that they could agree to mandatory E-Verify and a relaxation of H-2A program rules to make it easier for farmers to employ guest workers.

The Additional Child Tax Credit provides $1,000 per eligible low-income child, while the Earned Income Tax Credit provides payments to low earners who have US-citizen children. Under the ACTC, payments are made to unauthorized adults with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers on behalf of legal US children, and $5.7 billion was paid to ITIN holders in 2015.

The EITC requires both parent and child to have Social Security Numbers. Unauthorized foreigners who arrived in the US before age 16 and who received protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals can get SSNs and EITC payments.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) chairs the House Immigration Subcommittee, while Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) chairs the House Judiciary Committee. Sensenbrenner's enforcement-only HR 4437 bill was approved by the House in December 2005, and prompted "day without immigrant" protests on May 1, 2006.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who said that some Mexicans had "calves the size of cantaloupes" from hauling drugs across the Mexico-US border, drew condemnation from Republican leaders in March 2017 after saying that the US cannot "restore our civilization with somebody else's babies." Republican leaders responded that the US is a nation of immigrants, and that diversity is a US strength. King has championed English-only since his election to the House in 2002.

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