By Reeves Miller Zhang & Diza
As we said when we realized that Donald Trump had been elected president, we know what he said his intentions were during the campaign but what he actually plans to do remains to be seen. So, what has happened since then? And what indications do we have about his plans for the immigrant community? Let’s begin by focusing on the president-elect’s prospective appointments (nominations) to cabinet positions that directly affect immigrants. These nominations must, of course, be confirmed by Congress but with both houses of Congress in the hands of the Republicans, the appointees may not be in for a hard fight.
President-elect Trump has nominated John F. Kelly to be Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). General Kelly is a retired United States Marine Corps General and the former commander of the United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), the United Combatant Command responsible for American military operations in Central America, South America and the Caribbean. He previously served as the commanding general of the Multi-National Force – West in Iraq and the commander of Marine Forces Reserve and Marine forces North. It has been said that the Trump transition team was drawn to Kelly because of his southwest border experience. He lists his political party affiliation as Independent.
So, what does that tell us about how Kelly would run DHS and what his policies and primary concerns would be? Essentially nothing. Assuming his nomination is approved, we will have to wait and see what his priorities are.
President-elect Trump’s other immigration-related nomination is more well-known to the immigrant community. Mr. Trump has nominated Republican Senator from Alabama Jeff Sessions to be the next Attorney General of the United States. Senator Sessions has been a proponent of reducing legal immigration. He also led the fight in the Senate against Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2006 and in 2007. He also opposed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. He has said that a pathway to citizenship for immigrants here unlawfully undermines the rule of law and that guest workers and immigrants depress wages and raise unemployment for United States citizens. He is a supporter of E-Verify, the federal database that allows businesses to electronically verify the immigration status of potential newly hired employees.
Of course, the Attorney General deals with many issues besides immigration. How he will balance those issues (assuming he is confirmed) remains to be seen.
In the meantime, what can those who might be most affected by his administration do? Non-citizens should start by knowing their rights. They should also determine whether they can benefit under existing immigration laws. Talking to others in your same situation is not the best way to accomplish those goals. The best thing to do is to consult knowledgeable and experienced immigration lawyers. Ideally, the lawyer you speak to should be certified by the State Bar as a specialist in immigration & nationality law.
Now is still a time of unknowns and unknowns are always scary. But knowledge is power and we at Reeves Miller Zhang & Diza stand ready to help you arm yourselves knowledge – about your rights and possibilities. Let’s talk.