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April 2018, Volume 24, Number 2

DACA, Immigration

President Trump signed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that included $1.6 billion for the border wall but did not deal with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The US government shut down on January 20, 2018 for three days when Senate Democrats refused to support a short-term budget bill without protections for the so-called Dreamers, unauthorized foreigners who were brought to the US before the age of 16 and are currently protected by DACA.

President Obama created DACA by executive order in June 2012. When President Trump ended the program in September 2018, 690,000 previously unauthorized foreigners had become Dreamers, with two-year work permits; another 1.1 million seemingly eligible unauthorized youth did not apply. In most states, DACA recipients can get driver's licenses.

Trump gave Congress until March 5, 2018 to enact legislation to allow Dreamers to remain in the US legally. Federal judges in California and New York issued injunctions requiring DHS to continue accepting DACA renewal applications, and the US Supreme Court refused to consider an early appeal requested by Trump in February 2018, reducing the pressure on Congress to "save Dreamers."

A federal judge in Maryland in March 2018 upheld the Trump's decision to end DACA, setting up a clash between federal courts likely to be decided by the Supreme Court.

The Senate voted on immigration bills in February 2018. Most Democrats want a "clean" Dreamer bill that deals only with unauthorized foreigners brought to the US as children. Trump and many Republicans want to couple legal status for unauthorized youth with more immigration enforcement and changes to the legal immigration system.

Trump proposed a four-part immigration reform bill. First would be a path to US citizenship over 12 years for up to 1.8 million unauthorized foreigners brought to the US as youth. Second would be $25 billion for a wall on the Mexico-US border and third would be an end to the diversity visa lottery that awards 50,000 immigrant visas a year to countries that sent fewer than 50,000 immigrants during the previous five years.

Fourth would be restrictions on the right of immigrants and US citizens to sponsor their relatives for immigrant visas, but only after current backlogs are cleared, a bid to reduce chain migration. Trump's plan failed on a 39-60 vote in February 2018.

Senators voted 54-45 for an alternative bipartisan proposal that would have coupled legal status for 1.8 million unauthorized youth with funding for more walls and fences on the Mexico-US border; 60 votes were needed for approval. Some 654 miles of border were fenced in 2018, and Trump requested $1.6 billion for 74 miles of new and replacement fencing, a down payment on $18 billion for 700 miles of new and replacement barriers over 10 years.

Some say that a provision in the bipartisan proposal that would have established DHS enforcement priorities in law, and prioritized removals of persons who arrived after June 30, 2018, would have encouraged more illegal migrants hoping to get into the US before they become priorities for removal.

A third measure that would have provided a path to citizenship and required the government to implement a border security strategy by 2021 failed on a 52-47 vote, and a fourth measure that would crack down on sanctuary cities failed on a 54-45 vote.

Trump on April 1, 2018 tweeted that there would be "no more DACA deal" and called on Congress to fund a wall on the Mexico-US border. Trump asserted that a "caravan" of 1,200 Hondurans was marching through Mexico in April 2018 to apply for asylum at the US border, and said "Mexico has got to help us at the border with the big drug and people flows." The caravan dispersed after a week in southern Mexico.

Many migrant rights groups opposed the creation of the caravan, arguing that it would fuel reactions like those of Trump. The Mexican government in early April 2018 was interviewing those in the caravan, organized by Pueblo Sin Fronteras, to determine who could apply for asylum in Mexico and who would be returned to Honduras. In 2017, some 14,600 Central Americans applied for asylum in Mexico.

Trump in April 2018 pledged to deploy 2,000 to 4,000 National Guard troops to the Mexican border. In West Virginia, where Trump received 68 percent of the vote, his largest margin, Trump repeated earlier allegations that Democrats want more immigration to get more votes. DOJ ordered federal prosecutors to charge first-time illegal border crossers with committing crimes in response to 37,000 foreigners apprehended just inside the Mexico-US border in March 2018.

The focus on DACA has left some of the other nine million unauthorized migrants disappointed. Some unauthorized foreigners who do not qualify for DACA say that they fear "fix" for DACA will leave them more vulnerable, with more resources devoted to detecting and removing unauthorized foreigners.

Immigration. Does the US need more low-skilled immigrants? Some 10,000 Americans a day turn 65, and half will need long-term care over the next two decades they are expected to live. A quarter of 1.2 million personal care aides were born abroad, and firms that provide in-home and nursing home aids say they have trouble recruiting aides willing to work for $12 an hour.

Those who say that the US needs more low-skilled immigrants point to the aging US population and say that more immigrant care givers are needed. Others say that higher wages would induce more US workers into care occupations, or lead to more use of technology to assist and monitor older Americans.

Census. The 2020 census will ask each respondent whether he or she is a US citizen by birth or naturalization or not a US citizen. The Trump administration says the citizenship question is necessary to obtain the data needed to determine who can vote. Other government surveys collect data on citizenship.

About half of the 44 million immigrants are naturalized US citizens. Of the 22 million non-citizens, Pew estimates that half are unauthorized.

Some migrant advocates oppose adding the citizenship question, arguing that it could discourage people from completing the census and thus undercount residents. A dozen states including California sued to block the citizenship question, arguing that it would discourage responses and with the result that the census would report too few residents.