10 policies to expect from Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda

Lindsay Schubiner • Nov 11, 2016
Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

As we hold space for our grief, anger, and fear and come to terms with the danger a Trump presidency poses to so many communities, progressive movements also have to prepare to organize harder and smarter. Trump has already made several explicit commitments to target immigrant communities, from building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to halting refugee resettlement.

If we want to understand Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda, we have to take a long, hard look at its source: an organized nativist movement that has been mobilizing racism and bigotry since the 1970s, with the end goal of drastically reducing all immigration to the U.S. and preserving a large white majority in this country.

Throughout his campaign, Trump has praised leaders and groups within the organized anti-immigrant movement. He has made space for overt nativism at the Republican National Convention, in the national media, and in living rooms and town halls across the country. And not surprisingly, he has taken policy advice from some of the most extreme anti-immigrant figures around. The organized anti-immigrant movement helped create the conditions that both led to Trump’s success and drove many of his campaign priorities.

We’ve seen a pattern in which Trump has made outrageously broad claims, then walked them back slightly (though the positions remain unquestionably extreme). Where Trump eventually lands is often a reflection of existing policy priorities articulated by nativist leaders. For instance, Trump initially called for a complete ban on Muslim immigration to the U.S. He then revised his position, calling for “extreme vetting” of prospective immigrants. This proposal is almost identical to a plan introduced by the anti-immigrant spokesperson Mark Krikorian, known for going on racist screeds and publishing biased research.

Trump has already clearly stated a few of the things he intends to do. It is not a stretch to imagine that Trump’s final policies may closely reflect existing proposals from the organized anti-immigrant movement. Here’s our best guess as to what the primary threats from a Trump presidency will be to immigrant communities, focusing on the actions Trump could take without Congress in the shorter-term, and those that would be significant for people who are more vulnerable. The predictions are based on Trump’s statements and a series of recommendations from the anti-immigrant groups Center for Immigration Studies and NumbersUSA.

When we know what we’re facing, we can prepare to fight back. In that spirit, here are ten things we should anticipate:

Increase deportations, focusing on people with convictions

According to Trump himself, he would “begin removing the more than 2 million criminal illegal immigrants from the country.” Trump has isolated immigrants with criminal convictions in his rhetoric, and by working with the anti-immigrant organization, the Remembrance Project. The Obama Administration has already brought deportations to unprecedented highs, focusing on immigrants with even minor convictions, so it is unclear how Trump’s policies would differ from the status quo without the support of Congress. With Congressional buy-in, Trump could make good on his promise to devote even more resources to deportations by tripling the staff of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

End DACA and other executive actions

Trump intends to end executive actions impacting immigration enforcement priorities. The most high-profile executive action Trump has put on the chopping block is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which has given thousands of young people access to work permits and relief from deportation. This is not the only executive action Trump could reverse, however. Under Obama, the Department of Homeland Security issued memos that focused immigration enforcement on certain “priorities,” including people with criminal convictions, and limited enforcement in sensitive locations such as schools and hospitals. These memos could be reversed, and Trump could use Obama’s deportation machine to separate even more families, and put even more people at risk of violence or even death in their countries of origin.

Read more: The Immigration Reform Law Institute and the anti-immigrant origins of Texas v. United States

Impose financial pressure to end so-called sanctuary cities

A key aspect of Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda is his plan to “cancel all federal funding to sanctuary cities.” It is unclear which funding streams would be impacted, and which types of sanctuary policies would qualify jurisdictions to be targeted for funding cuts. We have one clue from the anti-immigrant think tank Center for Immigration Studies, which suggests mechanisms for cutting funding with no need for Congressional approval, specifically targeting funding to states and localities under the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) along with COPS grants and Byrne/JAG grants administered by the Department of Justice. With a Republican House and Senate, Trump has many more options for fiscally punishing localities that protect their immigrant residents, using far more crucial sources of funding. CIS also suggests reinvigorating the widely criticized 287(g) program, which promotes partnerships between federal immigration enforcement and local law enforcement.

Moratorium on immigration from certain regions

Trump has declared that he will “suspend immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur,” despite the strict vetting procedures already in place. It certainly won’t be a surprise if Trump’s identification of these supposedly terror-prone regions merely reinforce the bigotry facing Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities. He has similarly promised that “all vetting of people coming into our country will be considered extreme vetting.” The calls for a moratorium on immigration to the U.S. and refugee resettlement in the U.S. (both of which are presumably included in Trump’s plans) originated from the organized anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim movements, and have been top line goals for these movements.

Build a wall and impose mandatory prison sentences on immigrants

While many of Trump’s plans can be implemented without Congress, his plan to build a wall on the southern border cannot. Trump has proposed legislation called the “End Illegal Immigration Act.” According to Trump, the bill “Fully-funds the construction of a wall on our southern border with the full understanding that the country Mexico will be reimbursing the United States for the full cost of such wall; establishes a 2-year mandatory minimum federal prison sentence for illegally re-entering the U.S. after a previous deportation, and a 5-year mandatory minimum for illegally re-entering for those with felony convictions, multiple misdemeanor convictions or two or more prior deportations; also reforms visa rules to enhance penalties for overstaying and to ensure open jobs are offered to American workers first.” Prison sentences for returning to the U.S. after a deportation already exist; Trump’s proposal would make them mandatory.

Target immigrants who overstay their visas

Trump has said that “removing visa overstays will be a top priority of [his] administration,” but has not described how he plans to do so. For more details, we can look to the Center for Immigration Studies, which has two troubling proposals for Trump. First, CIS proposes to “hasten the implementation of biometric entry controls at land ports of entry, where large numbers of aliens enter with visas or Border Crossing Cards, but are untracked; and complete implementation of the long-delayed biometric exit system to complement the biometric entry system…” This biometric information would provide the basis of “a substantive enforcement program focusing on visa overstays.” Second, CIS proposes a new national program in which ICE officers would be required to devote a significant percentage of their hours to finding and arresting people who overstay their visas, particularly within the visa waiver program. People who obtain visas through this program, which includes nearly forty countries, many in Europe, forfeit many of their rights and are subject to expedited deportation. Trump has also voiced his support for imposing criminal penalties on people who overstay their visa, but he would not be able to impose those penalties without support from Congress.

Deny asylum to people seeking safety

According to Trump, he will “increase standards for the admission of refugees and asylum-seekers to crack down on abuses” once in office. He has given few details of this plan, so our best guess comes from two proposals from the Center for Immigration Studies. First, CIS proposes that the U.S. “deny asylum to any alien who could have sought asylum in countries through which he has traveled en route to the United States,” which includes Mexico. In practice, this means Trump supports denying status to nearly all asylum seekers from Central America, many of whom would be at incredible risk of violence if they are not welcomed into this country.  CIS also proposes detaining all people who are seeking asylum and do not already have legal status, with very few exceptions. While people who request asylum at the border already face detention, this would subject many more people to the unnecessary trauma of imprisonment, after they have already faced serious risk of harm in their home countries.

Reject Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

To our knowledge, Trump has not spoken about this category of relief. However, CIS’s recommendations to strictly curtail it would have serious impacts. CIS recommends termination of TPS designations that have been in effect for several years, such as El Salvador, and an executive order to limit all TPS designations to one year, with few exceptions.  

Target immigrant workers

Trump’s misleading rhetoric about protecting American jobs through anti-immigrant policies could lead to the return of workplace raids targeting immigrant workers. CIS is explicit about this, recommending an “end [to] the existing ICE policy embargo on workplace enforcement actions, including arrest of illegal aliens employed at violating companies.” Trump has pledged mandatory nationwide implementation of the deeply flawed and ineffective federal employment verification system, E-Verify, but would need Congressional support to enact this requirement for all employers. CIS also recommends that the President cease issuing work permits to immigrants in removal proceedings and other categories.

Other enforcement actions

CIS also proposes eliminating the Priority Enforcement Program in favor of Secure Communities, sending ICE agents to investigate day laborer centers, expanding the use of expedited removal to any immigrants who have been in the country for less than two years, and instituting routine use of parallel interviews for spouses petitioning for immigration benefits.

Lindsay Schubiner is the Senior Program Manager at the Center for New Community. Thanks to Prerna Lal for input on this blog. 

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