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October 2020, Volume 26, Number 4

Trump, Biden

Candidate Trump pledged to reshape the US immigration system, and President Trump issued executive orders and took administrative actions to make over 400 changes to immigration policies so far in his presidential term. Trump orders aimed to reduce unauthorized migration over the Mexico-US border and limit asylum seeking from Central America and elsewhere.

Since Trump took office, over 340 miles of fencing on the Mexico-US border has been built or upgraded using funds appropriated by Congress and funds taken from other federal agencies. Trump ordered DHS to make all unauthorized foreigners in the US priorities for detection and removal, which increased the share of foreigners detained who were not convicted of a US crime from a sixth in FY16 to a third in FY19.

Candidate Biden promised to end construction of a wall on the Mexico-US border, end the ban on entries from 13 Muslim-majority and African nations, reverse Trump’s changes to the public charge rule for applicants for immigrant visas, and increase the refugee quota to 125,000 a year. Biden promised to encourage Congress to create a path to immigrant status for the 11 million unauthorized foreigners in the US.

The US admitted 11,800 refugees in FY20, the smallest number since the Refugee Act of 1980 created the current system, under which the president sets a quota each year, 18,000 for FY20 and 15,000 in FY21. Covid was cited as the reason why so few of the 120,000 refugees abroad who have been vetted for admission to the US actually arrived. DOS estimated that 290,000 foreigners would apply for asylum in the US in FY21.

Census. President Trump in July 2020 signed an order directing the Census Bureau to report two counts of residents by state, including one that excludes unauthorized foreigners. The constitution requires an enumeration of the US population every decade, and the 14th amendment requires House seats to be apportioned by counting the “whole number of persons in each state.” Trump abandoned an effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census after legal challenges.

The effort to exclude unauthorized foreigners from state population totals was challenged in court. A federal judge in September 2020 ruled that Trump may not exclude unauthorized foreigners from state census counts, citing the “whole number of persons” requirement. Another federal judge refused to allow the Census Bureau to stop counting US residents a month early, requiring enumeration to continue until October 31, 2020 and delaying the delivery of final census counts from December 31, 2020 to April 2021. The Trump administration got this judge's order overturned.

The US has 330 million residents and 435 House seats, so the population in each House district is 760,000. California, with an estimated two million unauthorized foreigners, could lose two House seats if unauthorized foreigners are excluded from the count used for redistricting. Census data are used to distribute $700 billion in federal funds to states and cities.

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