By Reeves Miller Zhang & Diza, A PLC
President-elect Trump and his advisors are releasing some information that gives a clue as to their intentions regarding the immigrant community. There is still much that is not known (including who will be Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); who will be in charge of Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE); who will head Citizenship & Immigration Services (CIS); who will be the Attorney General and more). But it appears that the new administration plans to make a serious attempt to meet its goal of deporting at least 2 to 3 million immigrants whom the president-elect calls “criminals”.
According to some in the transition team, Trump will seek to widen their focus to include non-citizens who have been charged with but not convicted of crimes, suspected gang members, suspected drug dealers and people charged with such immigration violations as illegal reentry and overstaying visas as well as those with lower-level misdemeanor convictions. Hard-line Trump advisors are also said to be drafting plans to increase prosecution of illegal entry.
They are said to be planning to expand the use of the “expedited removal” process which allows immigration officers to bypass immigration court and immediately expel undocumented immigrants arrested within 100 miles of the border and within two weeks of illegal entry into the U.S. who do not express a credible fear of persecution if they are returned home.
While currently its use is not widespread in this arena, this type of process can also be used in the case of a non-lawful permanent resident who has been convicted of certain crimes or one who has previously been removed, returned illegally and had their removal order reinstated and who has not expressed a reasonable fear of persecution if they are returned home.
Word is that they plan to increase pressure on local police and jails to identify immigrants who are in the country illegally. Trump’s advisors are threatening to withhold some federal funding to those local authorities who refuse to cooperate. This may affect cities like San Francisco which declared itself a “sanctuary city” in 1989 and Los Angeles where Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said on Monday that his department has no plans to get involved in any deportation efforts by the federal government.
During the campaign, Trump estimated that there are approximately 2-3 million serious criminals among the undocumented population. The number seems to have come from an estimate of 1.9 million “removable criminal aliens” that ICE estimated in a request to Congress for funding in 2013. The estimate included legal residents and those with valid visas who were charged with crimes that could jeopardize their immigration status. That same year, ICE reported that 870,000 people had been ordered removed but not yet deported. It is possible that Trump’s 2-3 million people was arrived at by combining those numbers.
Studies do not support Trump’s estimates of large numbers of criminal aliens currently in the U.S. A 2015 study by the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C. think-tank concluded that, of the estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally, between 300,000 are felons and about 390,000 others have serious misdemeanor convictions. Immigrant advocacy groups suspect that Trump is going to use his inflated numbers to justify his implementation of a harsh and radical deportation scheme by calling his targets criminals even though they are not.
Trump advisors are said to be drafting plans to resume workplace raids. This would go along with the plan Trump voiced in August that he intended to implement a 10-point plan that would require (among other things) every employer to use a federal immigration status verification system (called e-Verify) for all hires.
Trump has also threatened to withhold visitors visas from countries such as China, Iran and Haiti that refuse to accept the return of their citizens who have been convicted of crimes and are being deported from the U.S.
Not yet mentioned is what relief, if any, the Trump Administration plans to propose for those in this country illegally who have not committed crimes. In his interview on “60 Minutes”, the president-elect said that “after the border is secured and after everything gets normalized, we’re going to make a determination on the people that you’re talking about who are terrific people”. What will need to happen for the incoming administration to decide that the border is secured and what does normalized mean and who will qualify to be terrific people? They have not said.
Not yet mentioned is what changes in law Congress may implement regarding immigration. Those who are eligible for relief now should apply for it now. Those who are not sure if any relief is available for them should consult with a knowledgeable and experienced immigration lawyer now.