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The Legal Changes for Immigration Since 2016

 

Talking about all the changes that have befallen the United States immigration policies and their outcomes in the last few years would require a series of books. We can, however, attempt to take an overarching view of the situation and attempt to summarize the thrust of the changes and how immigration has been affected overall. 

 

The political situation in the country, and how it involves immigration, is a topic of constant concern and debate on television and in social media. Rather than add to the noise of political jostling, for this article, we will simply attempt to look at the reality of our current immigration situation and how it has changed. 

 

In the nearly three years under the Presidency of Donald Trump, immigration policy has shifted dramatically. While the wall he promised has not been built, the legal and bureaucratic bulwark put up against immigration by the United States government has been just as injurious as any wall. 

 

As far as technical immigration laws that have been passed at the federal level, that number is surprisingly zero. What has happened is more subtle, and at times not so subtle. Trump makes sweeping announcements while bureaucrats work behind the scenes. We forget that vast bureaucracy often has a power all of its own. Subtle administrative shifts and memos have done what many who support a wall could have only dreamed. Rachell Morris at the Huffington Post reported that this cumulative effect was known amongst immigration lawyers as the invisible wall. Undemocratic as it may be, it has proven more effective than any politician. 

 

At the same time, the Trump administration has pushed forward a myriad of high profile ideas that have proved more distracting than anything (the wall and “Muslim ban,” for example). These policies make headlines but have had little real-world consequences as of yet. 

 

It is the bureaucratic changes behind the scenes that have been affecting the lives of and outcomes for immigrants. One of the linchpins for these changes were leadership shuffles in the part of the DHS that hands out Visas, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). The memos handed down by these new bureaucrats have “radically scaled back America’s asylum and refugee programs.” Illegal immigration, as well as legal immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, have also seen an increase in the paperwork and restrictions put upon them. 

 

This is an immense topic. For those looking for a more in depth look than what we can possibly cover here, we suggest you spend some time examining the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services News releases for the last three years.  

 

These are some of the new guidelines that have proven to have the most dramatic impact: 

 

  • New guidelines allow for the deportation of legal immigrants if they violate any government programs dealing with “the reception of public benefits.” This means that any perceived abuse of public benefits can lead to deportation. Some have argued this is part of the start of an initiative to deny citizenship to any immigrant who uses public benefits. Critics say the plan is racially motivated and is trying to circumvent congress. 

 

 

  • For marriages, it is now clarified that the applicant and their U.S. citizen spouse must have been living together as a married couple for at least three years. 

 

  • The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a policy that allowed immigrants brought here as children a chance to work and live in the country. Under President Trump, a plan to phase out DACA was announced. As of October 2019, the cancellation of DACA was awaiting a Supreme Court decision. This is not expected until 2020. 

 

This page is a great help if you are looking to get green cards and other benefits. They link to a ton of tools and documents.