Untangling Trump’s anti-immigrant policies will take time, experts warn


For Charleston Wang, an immigration lawyer based in Cincinnati, Ohio, the past four years under US President Donald Trump have been a very strange time.

“It’s unusual; extraordinary; totally unprecedented, ”he says of the circumstances that have seen demand for his expertise soar, but for rather disheartening reasons.

For his clients, mostly immigrants from mainland China, former Soviet republics, Africa and elsewhere, the four years of the Trump administration have been a nightmare. Many restrictions have been placed on people attempting to reach the United States for reasons of employment, family reunification, or personal safety.

“I’ve been licensed in this state since 1982. I’ve never seen anything like it,” he says.

“We persevere,” says Charleston Wang, an immigration lawyer based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to remove many restrictions on his first day in office. It is expected to issue an executive order lifting the Trump-era travel ban on immigration from several Muslim-majority countries, restoring protections for undocumented immigrant children formerly protected under the Deferred Action Policy for arrivals of children (Daca), and promised to set up a working group to bring together the more than 500 children currently detained by immigration authorities and separated from their parents on the southern border with Mexico.

For years we have seen this perception of asylum seekers and immigrants as a security threat or danger.

Biden chose Cuba-born Alejandro Mayorkas to head the Department of Homeland Security, a move hailed by immigrant rights organizations. As the daughter of immigrants, Vice President Kamala Harris should do much to use her position as a leading human rights defender.

But unrolling the constellation of legal and institutional restrictions put in place by the Trump administration will be far from straightforward, experts say.


“One of the challenges is that the Trump administration has put in place a number of regulations that will take some time to be repealed,” said Denise Gilman, director of the University of Texas Immigration Clinic at Austin. “For years we have seen this perception of asylum seekers and immigrants as a security threat or danger rather than seeing them as candidates to stay in the United States.[Changing that] requires different staff, a change in the interpretation of the law, a change in the regulations. It will take some time. “

In the Trump-led White House, anti-immigrant sentiment has been driven to unprecedented levels in a vast network of government institutions.

Shortly after his inauguration in January 2017, Donald Trump signed an executive order prohibiting citizens of countries like Iran, Syria, Libya and others from obtaining visas to come to the United States. This decision forced many people through lengthy visa waiver processes which in some cases took years to come to a conclusion or yielded no results.

Even if you were only for a relatively short period without much security in another country, you may be prevented from obtaining asylum.

Last June, the White House temporarily stopped issuing the H-2B visa used by seasonal and other workers to enter the country on short-term terms, citing the need to protect American workers struggling with the fallout from layoffs caused by coronaviruses. .

It has also imposed severe restrictions on the H-1B visa for highly skilled immigrants, the majority of whom are from India and China, Wang says, making it more difficult for U.S. employers to hire academics and professionals from non-American health and technology. “It started because of the [US-China] trade wars. There are Chinese cases that have been at a standstill for two or three years now, ”he said. “I have an employer who arrives this afternoon who has a small printing house who wants a Chinese student to come to work. [But] they just deny [visas] downright.”

The repression of the Trump era

The Trump-era crackdown goes beyond those who pursue employment and family-based immigration routes. Last month, the administration passed tougher eligibility requirements preventing asylum seekers from seeking asylum in the United States on grounds of gender or gang-related persecution, and for people who have spent time in the United States. a third country before entering the United States. “Even if you were only for a relatively short time without much security in another country, you may not be able to get asylum,” says Gilman. Observers have called it the biggest attack on the asylum system in the four years of the Trump presidency.

Under the Trump administration, the rate of granted asylum claims fell by 40%. The number of refugee places issued rose from 85,000 in 2016, the last year of Barack Obama’s administration, to 18,000 in 2020.

Under the Trump administration, the rate of granted asylum claims fell by 40%.  Photograph: Jason Redmond / AFP via Getty

Under the Trump administration, the rate of granted asylum claims fell by 40%. Photograph: Jason Redmond / AFP via Getty

Other restrictions include the disqualification of asylum seekers who entered the country illegally, used fraudulent documents, or failed to pay their taxes.

Certainly, the hopes of immigrants to reach the United States were heightened by the election of Biden.

But it remains to be seen whether he can deliver on promises such as blazing a trail to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the first 100 days of his presidency, especially in the face of the possibility of a Party-controlled Senate. republican. Observers note that the issue of citizenship for illegal immigrants had previously been championed by Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but both have not followed up.

The backbone of the economy

Immigrants have been the backbone of the US economy for decades. Studies show that foreign-born adults have a higher labor force participation rate than those born in the United States, and although 78 percent of immigrants are of working age, that rate drops to 59 percent among adults born in the United States.

Meanwhile, for Wang, the battle to reunite families continues. He says he worked on two cases where Chinese parents living in the United States have been separated from their children for several years and who are now living through contrasting experiences.

“One of them has just been scheduled for an interview [for a visa], the other hasn’t heard from for two years, ”he said. Wang adds that African refugees living in Cincinnati, Ohio, have been particularly affected by recent raids and deportations carried out by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“We persevere,” he said. “We wage these wars, even if some are impossible to win. “


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