NEWSLETTER – January 2018
Written By Attorney Sergio A. Perez of the Franco Law Group, APLC.
One Year Under President Trump and Expectations for 2018.
The year 2018 is now upon us and, as expected, the first year of Donald J. Trump’s presidency brought several changes that have been detrimental to immigrants. The first of these changes were the implementation of executive orders and policies that eliminated enforcement priorities and prosecutorial discretion. Under President Obama, immigration authorities were directed to prioritize their enforcement and prosecutorial efforts, with immigrants deemed to be threats to public safety and national security being the highest priorities. However, under President Trump, any person in the U.S. without authorization is an enforcement priority and is subject to detention and possible removal. President Trump also implemented the so-called Muslim travel bans which have been partially blocked and partially upheld by the federal courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. Additionally, on September 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced the elimination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which gave temporary lawful status to certain immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, commonly called “Dreamers”. (The elimination of DACA is currently being litigated in the courts.) The Trump administration also took aim at Temporary Protected Status, or TPS. This is a designation which gives temporary protection from removal to eligible immigrants from certain countries who cannot be repatriated due to ongoing armed conflicts, environmental disaster or other extraordinary and temporary conditions that exist in their countries of origin. In September of 2017, the Trump administration announced that the TPS designation for Sudan would be removed. Then, in November of 2017, the administration announced the removal of the TPS designations for Nicaragua and Haiti. Consequently, approximately 1,000 Sudanese, 2,500 Nicaraguans and 59,000 Haitians will be subject to removal if they do not obtain another form of legal status or leave the U.S. when their TPS ends – November 2, 2018 for Sudanese, January 5, 2019 for Nicaraguans and July 22, 2019 for Haitians.
Just days into the new year, on January 8, 2018, the Trump administration continued to undo protections for immigrants by announcing the removal of the TPS designation for El Salvador. Now, approximately 200,000 Salvadorans with TPS have until September 9, 2019 to obtain another form of legal status, leave the U.S. or be subject to removal.
Past statements from President Trump and his administration give us an idea of what other changes immigrants and their advocates can expect in 2018. First, the Trump administration has stated that it is considering removing the TPS designation for Honduras. If this happens, approximately 57,000 Hondurans who currently have TPS will be faced with the same circumstances as their Sudanese, Nicaraguan, Haitian and Salvadoran counterparts. Additionally, on January 4, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions indicated that he will review a practice called administrative closure. This is a practice used by immigration judges to administratively close cases to allow immigrants in removal proceedings time to pursue immigration benefits outside of the immigration court. If Attorney General Sessions orders the end of this practice, 350,000 immigration court cases which are currently administratively closed could be reopened.
The Trump administration has also been critical of the diversity visa lottery and what it calls “chain migration”. The diversity visa lottery gives visas to persons from countries with low immigration rates to the U.S. “Chain migration” refers to family based petitions by which U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can petition for eligible spouses, children, parents and siblings. Indeed, the Trump administration has stated that it wants to eliminate or severely limit these immigration benefits with the goal of cutting yearly lawful immigration to the U.S. by half. However, unlike the changes mentioned above, President Trump cannot unilaterally end or limit the diversity visa lottery or family based petitions as this would require changes in the law. For this, Congress would have to act first. The Trump administration and Congress are currently engaged in immigration reform discussions. However, the outcome of these discussions remains uncertain as they have been overshadowed by President Trump’s widely reported and vulgar comments of January 11, 2018 regarding Haiti, El Salvador and African countries.
Immigrants who have been affected by the Trump administration’s changes, or who might be affected by the administration’s expected changes, are encouraged to speak with a qualified immigration attorney to discuss their legal options. The attorneys of the Franco Law Group, APLC are available to discuss your case. Please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys at (213) 200-1505.