Immigration policy and, specifically, Illegal immigration to the United States, was a signature issue of U.S. President Donald Trump's presidential campaign, and his proposed reforms and remarks about this issue generated much publicity. A hallmark promise of his campaign was to build a substantial wall on the United States-Mexico border. Official estimates of the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States range from 11 and 12 million, while Trump has falsely insisted the number is between 30 and 34 million.
Trump has also expressed support for a variety of "limits on legal immigration and guest-worker visas", including a "pause" on granting green cards, which Trump says will "allow record immigration levels to subside to more moderate historical averages". Trump's proposals regarding H-1B visas frequently changed throughout his presidential campaign, but as of late July 2016, he appeared to oppose the H-1B visa program.
After Mitt Romney lost the 2012 U.S. presidential election, Trump criticized Romney's immigration policy, saying, "He had a crazy policy of self deportation which was maniacal. It sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all of the Latino vote. He lost the Asian vote. He lost everybody who is inspired to come into this country." At the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump urged Republican politicians not to pass immigration reform, saying immigrants would vote for the Democratic party and steal American jobs.
During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Trump questioned official estimates of the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States asserting that the number is actually between 30 and 34 million. PolitiFact ruled that his statement was "Pants on Fire", citing experts who noted that no evidence supported an estimate in that range. For example, the Pew Research Center reported in March 2015 that the number of undocumented immigrants overall declined from 12.2 million in 2007 to 11.2 million in 2012. The number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. labor force ranged from 8.1 million to 8.3 million between 2007 and 2012, approximately 5% of the U.S. labor force.
In 2015, prior to being elected president, Trump proposed rolling back birthright citizenship for U.S.–born children of undocumented immigrants (whom he refers to as "anchor babies"). Under the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, all persons born on U.S. soil and subject to its jurisdiction are citizens. The mainstream view of the Fourteenth Amendment among legal experts is that everyone born on U.S. soil, regardless of parents' citizenship, is automatically an American citizen, so long as the parents are not foreign diplomats.
The Trump administration embraced the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act in August 2017. The RAISE Act seeks to reduce levels of legal immigration to the United States by 50% by halving the number of green cards issued. The bill would also impose a cap of 50,000 refugee admissions a year and would end the visa diversity lottery. A study by Penn Wharton economists found that the legislation would by 2027 "reduce GDP by 0.7 percent relative to current law, and reduce jobs by 1.3 million. By 2040, GDP will be about 2 percent lower and jobs will fall by 4.6 million. Despite changes to population size, jobs and GDP, there is very little change to per capita GDP, increasing slightly in the short run and then eventually falling."
Kathryn Steinle was killed in July 2015 by an illegal immigrant, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, who had multiple convictions and had been previously deported on five occasions. During the election campaign, Trump promised to ask Congress to pass Kate's Law, named after her, to ensure that criminal aliens convicted of illegal reentry received strong, mandatory minimum sentences. A Senate version of the bill was previously introduced by Ted Cruz in July 2016, but it failed to pass a cloture motion.
Trump has emphasized U.S. border security and illegal immigration to the United States as a campaign issue. During his announcement speech he stated in part, "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems.... They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." On July 6, 2015, Trump issued a written statement to clarify his position on illegal immigration, which drew a reaction from critics. It read in part:
"The Mexican Government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc. This was evident just this week when, as an example, a young woman in San Francisco was viciously killed by a 5-time deported Mexican with a long criminal record, who was forced back into the United States because they didn't want him in Mexico. This is merely one of thousands of similar incidents throughout the United States. In other words, the worst elements in Mexico are being pushed into the United States by the Mexican government. The largest suppliers of heroin, cocaine and other illicit drugs are Mexican cartels that arrange to have Mexican immigrants trying to cross the borders and smuggle in the drugs. The Border Patrol knows this. Likewise, tremendous infectious disease is pouring across the border. The United States has become a dumping ground for Mexico and, in fact, for many other parts of the world. On the other hand, many fabulous people come in from Mexico and our country is better for it. But these people are here legally, and are severely hurt by those coming in illegally. I am proud to say that I know many hard working Mexicans—many of them are working for and with me ... and, just like our country, my organization is better for it."
A study published in Social Science Quarterly in May 2016 tested Trump's claim that immigrants are responsible for higher levels of violent and drug-related crime in the United States. It found no evidence that links Mexican or illegal Mexican immigrants specifically to violent or drug-related crime. It did however find a small but significant association between undocumented immigrant populations (including non-Mexican undocumented immigrants) and drug-related arrests.
In addition to his proposals to construct a border wall (see below), Trump has called for tripling the number of Border Patrol agents.
Trump has repeatedly pledged to build a wall along the U.S.'s southern border, and has said that Mexico would pay for its construction through increased border-crossing fees and NAFTA tariffs. In his speech announcing his candidacy, Trump pledged to "build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words." Trump also said "nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I'll build them very inexpensively." The concept for building a barrier to keep undocumented immigrants out of the U.S. is not new; 670 miles of fencing (about one-third of the border) was erected under the Secure Fence Act of 2006, at a cost of $2.4 billion. Trump said later that his proposed wall would be "a real wall. Not a toy wall like we have now." In his 2015 book, Trump cites the Israeli West Bank barrier as a successful example of a border wall. "Trump has at times suggested building a wall across the nearly 2,000-mile border and at other times indicated more selective placement." After a meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on August 31, 2016, Trump said that they "didn't discuss" who would pay for the border wall that Trump has made a centerpiece of his presidential campaign. Nieto contradicted that later that day, saying that he at the start of the meeting "made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall". Later that day, Trump reiterated his position that Mexico will pay to build an "impenetrable" wall on the Southern border.
John Cassidy of The New Yorker wrote that Trump is "the latest representative of an anti-immigrant, nativist American tradition that dates back at least to the Know-Nothings" of the 1840s and 1850s. Trump says "it was legal immigrants who made America great," that the Latinos who have worked for him have been "unbelievable people", and that he wants a wall between the U.S. and Mexico to have a "big, beautiful door" for people to come legally and feel welcomed in the United States.
According to experts and analyses, the actual cost to construct a wall along the remaining 1,300 miles of the border could be as high as $16 million per mile, with a total cost of up to $25 billion, with the cost of private land acquisitions and fence maintenance pushing up the total cost further. Maintenance of the wall could cost up to $750 million a year, and if the Border Patrol agents were to patrol the wall, additional funds would have to be expended. Rough and remote terrain on many parts of the border, such as deserts and mountains, would make construction and maintenance of a wall expensive, and such terrain may be a greater deterrent than a wall in any case. Experts also note that on federally protected wilderness areas and Native American reservations, the Department of Homeland Security may have only limited construction authority, and a wall could cause environmental damage.
Despite campaign promises to build a full wall, Trump later stated that he favors putting up some fences.
In February 2017, Reuters reported that an internal report by the Department of Homeland Security estimated that Trump's proposed border wall would cost $21.6 billion and take 3.5 years to build. This estimate is far higher than estimates by Trump during the campaign ($12 billion) and the $15-billion estimate from Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
In August 2017, the transcript of the January 2017 phone call between President Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was leaked; in the phone call, Trump conceded that he would fund the border wall, not by charging Mexico as he promised during the campaign, but through other ways. But Trump implored the Mexican President to stop saying publicly that the Mexican Government would not pay for the border wall.
Critics of Trump's plan question whether a wall would be effective at stopping unauthorized crossings, noting that walls are of limited use unless they are patrolled by agents and to intercept those climbing over or tunneling under the wall. Experts also note that approximately half of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. did not surreptitiously enter, but rather "entered through official crossing points, either by overstaying visas, using fraudulent documents, or being smuggled past the border".
On September 12, 2017, the United States Department of Homeland Security issued a notice that Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke would be waiving "certain laws, regulations and other legal requirements" to begin construction of the new wall near Calexico, California. The waiver allows the Department of Homeland Security to bypass the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Migratory Bird Conservation Act, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Noise Control Act, the Solid Waste Disposal Act, the Antiquities Act, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. The state of California, some environmental groups, and Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) filed suit challenging the waivers granted to permit the building of a border wall. On February 27, 2018, Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel ruled that under federal law the administration has the authority to waive multiple environmental laws and regulations in order to expedite the construction of border walls and other infrastructure, so that wall construction can proceed.
In August 2015, during his campaign, Trump proposed the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants as part of his immigration policy. During his first town hall campaign meeting in Derry, New Hampshire, Trump said that if he were to win the election, then on "[d]ay 1 of my presidency, they're getting out and getting out fast".
Trump has proposed a "Deportation Force" to carry out this plan, modeled after the 1950s-era "Operation Wetback" program during the Eisenhower administration that ended following a congressional investigation. Historian Mae Ngai of Columbia University, who has studied the program, has said that the military-style operation was both inhumane and ineffective.
According to analysts, Trump's mass-deportation plan would encounter legal and logistical difficulties, since U.S. immigration courts already face large backlogs. Such a program would also impose a fiscal cost; the fiscally conservative American Action Forum policy group estimates that deporting every undocumented immigrant would cause a slump of $381.5 billion to $623.2 billion in private sector output, amounting to roughly a loss of 2% of U.S. GDP. Doug Holtz-Eakin, the group's president, has said that the mass deportation of 11 million people would "harm the economy in ways it would normally not be harmed".
In June 2016, Trump stated on Twitter that "I have never liked the media term 'mass deportation'—but we must enforce the laws of the land!" Later in June, Trump stated that he would not characterize his immigration policies as including "mass deportations". However, on August 31, 2016, contrary to earlier reports of a "softening" in his stance, Trump laid out a 10-step plan reaffirming his hardline positions. He reiterated that "anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation" with priority given to those who have committed significant crimes and those who have overstayed visas. He noted that all those seeking legalization would have to go home and re-enter the country legally.
Trump frequently revised proposals to ban Muslim immigration to the United States in the course of his presidential campaign. In late July 2016, NBC News characterized his position as: "Ban all Muslims, and maybe other people from countries with a history of terrorism, but just don't say 'Muslims'." (Rudy Giuliani said on Fox News that Trump tasked him to craft a "Muslim ban" and asked Giuliani to form a committee to show him "the right way to do it legally". The committee, which included former U.S. Attorney General and Chief Judge of the Southern District of New York Michael Mukasey, and Reps. Mike McCaul and Peter T. King, decided to drop the religious basis and instead focused on regions where Giuliani says that there is "substantial evidence that people are sending terrorists" to the United States.)
In December 2015, Trump proposed a temporary ban on foreign Muslims entering the United States (the U.S. admits approximately 100,000 Muslim immigrants each year) "until we can figure out what's going on". In response to the 2015 San Bernardino shooting, Trump released a statement on "Preventing Muslim Immigration" and called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on". In a December 2015 interview, the host Willie Geist repeatedly questioned Trump if airline representatives, customs agents or border guards would ask a person's religion. Trump responded that they would and if the person said they were Muslim, they will be denied entry into the country.
Trump cited President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's use during World War II of the Alien and Sedition Acts to issue presidential proclamations for rounding up, holding, and deporting German, Japanese, and Italian alien immigrants, and noted that Roosevelt was highly respected and had highways named after him. Trump stated that he did not agree with Roosevelt's internment of Japanese Americans, and clarified that the proposal would not apply to Muslims who were U.S. citizens or to Muslims who were serving in the U.S. military.
In May 2016, Trump retreated slightly from his call for a Muslim ban, calling it "merely an idea, not a proposal". On June 13, 2016, he reformulated the ban so that it would be geographical, not religious, applying to "areas of the world where there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies". Two hours later, he claimed that ban was only for nations "tied to Islamic terror". In June 2016, he also stated that he would allow Muslims from allies like the United Kingdom to enter the United States. In May 2016, Trump said "There will always be exceptions" to the ban, when asked how the ban would apply to London's newly elected mayor Sadiq Khan. A spokesman for Sadiq Khan said in response that Trump's views were "ignorant, divisive and dangerous" and play into the hands of extremists.
In June 2016, Trump expanded his proposed ban on Muslim immigration to the United States to cover immigration from areas with a history of terrorism. Specifically, Trump stated, "When I am elected, I will suspend immigration from areas of the world when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe, or our allies, until we understand how to end these threats." According to lawyers and legal scholars cited in a New York Times report, the president has the power to carry out the plan but it would take an ambitious and likely time-consuming bureaucratic effort, and make sweeping use of executive authority. Immigration analysts also noted that the implementation of Trump's plan could "prompt a wave of retaliation against American citizens traveling and living abroad". In July 2016, Trump described his proposal as encompassing "any nation that has been compromised by terrorism". Trump later referred to the reformulation as "extreme vetting".
When asked in July 2016 about his proposal to restrict immigration from areas with high levels of terrorism, Trump insisted that it was not a "rollback" of his initial proposal to ban all Muslim immigrants. He said, "In fact, you could say it's an expansion. I'm looking now at territory." When asked if his new proposal meant that there would be greater checks on immigration from countries that have been compromised by terrorism, such as France, Germany and Spain, Trump answered, "It's their own fault, because they've allowed people over years to come into their territory."
On August 15, 2016, Trump suggested that "extreme views" would be grounds to be thrown out of the U.S., saying he would deport Seddique Mateen, the father of Omar Mateen (the gunman in the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting), who has expressed support for the Taliban. On 31 August, during a speech in Phoenix, Trump said he would form a commission to study which regions or countries he would suspend immigration from, noting that Syria and Libya would be high on that list. Jeff Sessions an advisor to Trump's campaign on immigration at the time said the Trump campaign’s plan was “the best laid out law enforcement plan to fix this country’s immigration system that’s been stated in this country maybe forever”. During confirmation-hearing testimony, he acknowledged supporting vetting based on “areas where we have an unusually high risk of terrorists coming in”; Sessions acknowledged the DOJ would need to evaluate such a plan if it were outside the “Constitutional order.”
Trump has on several occasions expressed opposition to allowing Syrian refugees into the U.S.—saying they could be the "ultimate Trojan horse"—and has proposed deporting back to Syria refugees settled in the U.S. By September 2015, Trump had expressed support for taking in some Syrian refugees and praised Germany's decision to take in Syrian refugees.
On a number of occasions in 2015, Trump asserted that "If you're from Syria and you're a Christian, you cannot come into this country, and they're the ones that are being decimated. If you are Islamic ... it's hard to believe, you can come in so easily." PolitiFact rated Trump's claim as "false" and found it to be "wrong on its face", citing the fact that 3 percent of the refugees from Syria have been Christian (although they represent 10 percent of the Syrian population) and finding that the U.S. government is not discriminating against Christians as a matter of official policy.
In a May 2016 interview with Bill O'Reilly, Trump stated "Look, we are at war with these people and they don't wear uniforms..... This is a war against people that are vicious, violent people, that we have no idea who they are, where they come from. We are allowing tens of thousands of them into our country now." Politifact ruled this statement "pants on fire", stating that the U.S. is on track to accept 100,000 refugees in 2017, but there is no evidence that tens of thousands of them are terrorists.
On January 27, 2017, Trump signed an executive order (Number 13769), titled "Protecting the Nation From Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals", that suspended entry for citizens of seven countries for 90 days: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, totaling more than 134 million people. The order also stopped the admission of refugees of the Syrian Civil War indefinitely, and the entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days. Refugees who were on their way to the United States when the order was signed were stopped and detained at airports.
Implicated by this order is 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1182 “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.” 8 U.S. Code § 1182 (Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952).
Critics argue that Congress later restricted this power in 1965, stating plainly that no person could be “discriminated against in the issuance of an immigrant visa because of the person’s race, sex, nationality, place of birth or place of residence.” (8 U.S. Code § 1152) The only exceptions are those provided for by Congress (such as the preference for Cuban asylum seekers).
Many legal challenges to the order were brought immediately after its issuance: from January 28 to January 31, almost 50 cases were filed in federal courts. Some courts, in turn, granted temporary relief, including a nationwide temporary restraining order (TRO) that barred the enforcement of major parts of the executive order. The Trump administration is appealing the TRO.
On March 6, 2017, Trump signed a revised executive order, that, among other differences with the original order, excluded Iraq, visa-holders, and permanent residents from the temporary suspension and did not differentiate Syrian refugees from refugees from other countries.
On June 26, the Supreme Court partially permitted the executive order to come into effect and invalidated certain injunctions that were put on the order by two federal appeals courts earlier. Final oral hearings concerning the legality of the order will be held in October 2017 at the Supreme Court.
In late October of 2017, Trump ended a ban on refugee admissions while adding new rules for "tougher vetting of applicants" and essentially halting entry of refugees from 11 high risk nations. This has led to a 40% drop in entrants.
On January 25, 2017, Trump signed Executive Order 13768 which, among other things, significantly increased the number of immigrants considered a priority for deportation. Previously, under Obama, an immigrant ruled removable would only be considered a priority to actually be physically deported if they, in addition to being removable, were convicted of serious crimes such as felonies or multiple misdemeanors. Under the Trump administration, such an immigrant can be considered a priority to be removed even if convicted only of minor crimes, or even if merely accused of such criminal activity. Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, who came illegally to the United States when she was 14, may have become the first person deported under the terms of this order on February 9, 2017. Garcia de Rayos had previously been convicted of felony criminal impersonation related to her use of a falsified Social Security card to work at an Arizona water park. This conviction had not been considered serious enough, under Obama, to actually remove her from the country, although she was required to check in regularly with ICE officials, which she had done regularly since 2008. The first time she checked in with ICE officials after the new executive order took effect, however, led to her detention and physical removal from the country. Greg Stanton, the Mayor of Phoenix commented that "Rather than tracking down violent criminals and drug dealers, ICE is spending its energy deporting a woman with two American children who has lived here for more than two decades and poses a threat to nobody." ICE officials said that her case went through multiple reviews in the immigration court system and that the "judges held she did not have a legal basis to remain in the US".
The Washington Post reported on 10 February 2017 that federal agents had begun to conduct sweeping immigration enforcement raids in at least six states.
Federal Reserve officials have warned that Trump's immigration restrictions will likely have an adverse impact on the economy. Immigration is a core component of economic growth, they have said.
Ilya Somin, Professor of Law at George Mason University, argued that Trump's withholding of federal funding would be unconstitutional: "Trump and future presidents could use [the executive order] to seriously undermine constitutional federalism by forcing dissenting cities and states to obey presidential dictates, even without authorization from Congress. The circumvention of Congress makes the order a threat to separation of powers, as well." On April 25, 2017, U.S. District Judge William Orrick issued a nationwide preliminary injunction halting the executive order. Subsequently, Judge Orrick issued a nationwide permanent injunction on November 20, 2017, declaring that section 9(a) of Executive Order 13768 was "unconstitutional on its face" and violates "the separation of powers doctrine and deprives [the plaintiffs] of their Tenth and Fifth Amendment rights."
President Obama's "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" (DACA) Executive Order from 2012 enabled an estimated 800,000 young adults ("Dreamers") brought illegally into the U.S. as children to work legally without fear of deportation. President Trump announced in September 2017 that he was cancelling this Executive Order with effect from six months and he called for legislation to be enacted before the protection phased out in March 2018, stating “I have a love for these people, and hopefully now Congress will be able to help them and do it properly.” Trump's action was widely protested across the country. Business leaders argued it was unfair and could harm the economy.
I mean, take a look at what FDR did many years ago and he's one of the most highly respected presidents. I mean respected by most people. They named highways after him.
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