As history has shown us, the Obama Administration was very harsh against those living in the U.S. without documents. His administration deported more undocumented people than several prior administrations combined by a significant number and he was very strict with people trying to work without papers. Obama was the creator of the I-9 or “E-Verify” process punishing employers of undocumented workers. Although Obama set the tone for the Trump Administration, no one could have predicted the regular and systematic attacks on virtually all immigration that came into being under the leadership of President Trump.
Without a doubt, the threat to immigration has never been higher than today and it continues to be a serious concern to immigration advocates and businesses alike. I have written many articles over the years about the changes to immigration law, but the last year has seen so many changes that it staggers the mind and it is very difficult to stay on top of what the current policy is. This is especially true because laws and policies have been regularly blocked, unblocked, reversed, reinstated, eliminated and hidden from the public.
So, what can we expect from the results of the election? First, it is important to accept the reality that the final results of the election will not be official for probably 1-2 months. This election will prove to be the most legally contested elections in history and the process will take some time to work itself out. We are not just dealing with irritated Republicans and Democrats, but the difficulty Covid-19 brought with the burden of counting record numbers of absentee ballots that the system was never designed to handle. To give an idea of the timeline that the legal election process must follow, December 23rd is the deadline to provide the officially certified Electoral votes to Congress. Then, after the holiday break, the newly elected Congress is sworn in on January 3rd with the session for counting the Electoral votes set for January 6th. January 20th is the end of the current Presidential term and the start of the next term.
At the time this article was written, President Trump was behind in the election with former Vice President Biden as the front-runner. What will it look like under Biden? Simply put, Biden's plan is to un-do all of the damaging immigration policies that Trump put in place over the past 4 years. Although specific plans were not discussed much during the election, his campaign website says he will focus on: taking urgent action to undo Trump’s damage and reclaim America’s values, modernizing America’s immigration system, welcoming immigrants in our communities, reasserting America’s commitment to asylum-seekers and refugees, tackling the root causes of irregular migration and implementing effective border screening.
So, what does this mean for immigration if Trump wins re-election? I do not see President Trump being any less harsh with immigration. In fact, I fully anticipate many more policy changes and reductions in both legal immigration and the enforcement (deportations) of undocumented individuals and families surpassing the numbers under his first term. We can also expect ongoing challenges to many business visas similar to what is happening to H1B visas including the complete elimination of certain visa types. In addition to business visas, I believe Trump will make more direct attacks on family immigration.
A couple years ago President Trump announced that it would be a priority to greatly decrease the ability of legal permanent residents and citizens to sponsor family members or what he called “chain immigration”. Although sponsorships for spouses and children will probably not be affected too much in the future, I anticipate sponsorships for parents and siblings to be completely eliminated within the next year or so. Because of this, we recommend everyone take advantage of the current and existing immigration processes and policies if they are able to do so. It has always been my recommendation to my clients to move forward with any process they are eligible for instead of waiting for “things to get better in the future” and I renew that recommendation now more than ever.