Deep dive: Immigration policy

American and pattiot

With anger, fear, and lies dominating much of the public discourse about immigration, it’s time to step back and look at policy changes that are already being implemented. Don’t worry: the deep dive is not hard reading, just thought-provoking reporting. The bullet point summary:

  • The Trump administration is changing immigration without changing laws—no Congressional votes, just executive action.
  • Legal immigration is slowed by a dramatic increase in administrative requirements and hurdles.
  • Some immigration quotas—including the number of refugees admitted—are set by the president. Trump has slashed refugee admissions to historic lows.
  • ICE, the enforcement arm, is targeting “low-hanging fruit.” That means greatly increased arrests of people who have lived in the United States for decades, in the open, without any criminal activity.
  • Enforcement has become brutal, deliberately inflicting pain (hieleras, separation of parents and small children), with the stated aim of discouraging asylum seekers.
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions is curtailing the authority of immigration courts and due process, re-deciding cases himself., and changing rules on asylum.
  • Slogans like “chain migration” and “amnesty” and “immigrant gangs” dominate attacks on immigrants.
  • Underlying all of it: racism.

In its report, Deconstructing the Invisible Wall, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) describes and documents the “invisible wall” of policies already implemented by the Trump administration, and individual cases showing the impact of those policies. Here’s one such case, from Minneapolis:

“Anne,* a citizen of Canada, came to the United States to study Community Health at a prestigious public school in the Midwest. Following graduation, she received an offer of employment from an organization that works with disabled individuals to place them in jobs and ensure they have the support and training to thrive. As a Client Care Coordinator, Anne works closely with her disabled clients, ensuring that they are provided the specialized training and feedback that is essential to their success. Her employer filed an H-1B petition on her behalf on April 1, 2017 and was elated when she was selected in the lottery for one of the 65,000 H-1Bs for FY 2018.

“In August, the employer received a “Request for Evidence” questioning whether Anne’s specialized training in Psychology, Mental Health and Stress Management, Community and Environmental Health, Drug/Health and Human Behavior, Coaching, and Motor Learning were sufficiently related to her position. In September, the employer responded with comprehensive documentation that included expert support letters, letters from similar organizations, proof of the complexity of her work, and even more detail regarding her job duties. As a small public interest-focused organization, Anne’s employer cannot afford the $1,225 “Premium Processing” fee so they are forced to wait. In December, Anne lost her work authorization and has been sitting on her hands, waiting to get back to work ever since. This has caused extensive hardship to her employer, which has only 20 employees and a client-base of disabled individuals in need of Anne’s expert assistance and guidance.

“*Name changed to protect privacy. —AILA Attorney, Minneapolis, MN”

A second recent AILA report, Cogs in the Deportation Machine, describes the impact of Trump policies on undocumented immigrants and on those who, like DACA, TPS, and DED recipients, exist somewhere in the limbo in between:

“At the administration’s disposal are massive amounts of resources already dedicated to immigration enforcement. The current budgets for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are nearly $20 billion—an all-time high that surpasses funding for all other federal law enforcement combined. With paltry attention paid to whether American taxpayer money is being spent wisely or effectively, the administration is now asking Congress for huge increases to enforcement funding for detention beds, ICE and Border Patrol agents, and for the border wall. As “Cogs in the Machine” demonstrates, the machinery of enforcement is not being used to pursue threats to national security or public safety but to deport as many people as possible….

“The Trump administration has implemented policies that will undermine the independence of immigration judges and weaken due process in the immigration court system. I”

‘Abolish ICE’ explained (Vox, 3/19/18)

As the people on the ground carrying out Trump’s deportation agenda, ICE agents have become, to many, the face of the administration’s worst impulses. They’re America’s “Gestapo.” They’re a “rogue agency.” Rumors and reports of ICE raids have rippled through communities and social media with regularity; arrests of parents, recorded on their children’s cellphone cameras, have provoked nationwide outrage….

“The longer that progressives see what Trump is doing with ICE, the more questions they might have about whether it’s a good idea for any president to have that kind of power — and the more likely they might be to ask those questions of anyone who wants to be the Democratic Party’s nominee in 2020.” 

For Trump, cruelty is the point (The Nation, 3//18)

“Without needing to change any laws, the White House has used the threat of gang violence and the need to protect national security as pretexts for draconian immigration policies. Yet the real aim has always been something else: to inflict maximum suffering as a means of pushing out unwanted newcomers as well as those whose extended presence in the country may threaten white supremacy.”

When did ‘amnesty’ become a dirty word? (Politico, 3/18/18)

So how did “amnesty”—a word that politicians of both parties once used to invoke generosity and openness—become such a monstrous taboo? Its very invocation has scuttled attempts at immigration reform year after year. Despite its recent weaponization, the usage of the word “amnesty” has actually been rather benign over most of its history. But its more recent shift offers a window into the growing potency of immigration in American politics.” 

‘Chain migration’ used to be a benign term. NOt any more. (New York Times, 3/20/18)

The long drift of chain migration from academia to politics began in the 1950s, when sociologists and demographers adopted a new metaphor for the networks that developed within immigrant communities. Like links in a chain, established residents would connect with newcomers from their countries of origin, helping them find jobs and housing and offering information on how to navigate their new home. Eventually those newcomers might offer the same assistance to the next set of arrivals.” 

As America changes, some anxious whites feel left behind (National Geographic, April 2018 issue) The first in a year-long series of articles about race and immigration in the United States begins in a small Pennsylvania town.

“Outnumbered is a word that came up often when I talked with white residents of this eastern Pennsylvania town. Outnumbered in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. Outnumbered at the bank. Outnumbered at the Kmart, where the cashier merrily chitchats in Spanish with Hazleton’s newer residents.

“Hazleton was another former coal mining town slipping into decline until a wave of Latinos arrived. It would not be an overstatement to say a tidal wave. In 2000 Hazleton’s 23,399 residents were 95 percent non-Hispanic white and less than 5 percent Latino. By 2016 Latinos became the majority, composing 52 percent of the population, while the white share plunged to 44 percent.” 

About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet,, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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