Trump Administration Immigration Accomplishments
President Trump is working hard to restore the rule of law and make immigration work for America. View a timeline of the Trump Administration's immigration accomplishments:
Trump Administration Takes Action Against Sanctuary Jurisdictions
On February 10, Attorney General William Barr announced that the Department of Justice would take legal action against local and state governments that pursue misguided sanctuary policies. Sanctuary jurisdictions – of which there are almost 600 in the United States – obstruct the enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws and frequently release illegal alien criminals to prey on Americans and immigrants alike. In particular, Barr announced lawsuits against the states of California and New Jersey, as well as King County in Washington state. In a separate action, the Trump administration is deploying special border patrol tactical units to sanctuary jurisdictions throughout the country to assist ICE through May.
Legal Immigration Reduced
Newly released Department of Homeland Security data shows a modest decline in the admission of legal immigrants into the United States between 2016 and 2018. The drop of about 7 percent, or nearly 87,000 people, is the first noticeable decline in the levels of legal immigrants in recent decades. Admissions of immediate family members of U.S. citizens – spouses, children and parents – fell by more than 15 percent during this period.
Trump Administration Cracks Down on Birth Tourism
On January 23, the U.S. Department of State issued a new rule cracking down on birth tourism. The rule gives consular officers greater leeway to deny B nonimmigrant visas to foreign nationals whom they believe are traveling to the United States for the primary purpose of obtaining U.S. citizenship for a child by giving birth in the country. The rule also codifies a requirement that applicants seeking medical treatment in the U.S. must demonstrate their ability to pay for the treatment. The State Department says the rule will address “concerns about the attendant risks of this activity to national security and law enforcement, including criminal activity associated with the birth tourism industry.”
Southwest Border Apprehensions Decline for 8 Consecutive Months
Apprehensions at the southwestern border have consistently declined since peaking at 144,000 in May 2019. There were less than 37,000 apprehensions in January 2020 – a 74 percent decrease. Such a relatively low number of apprehended illegal border crossers has not been recorded since January 2018.
Travel Ban Expanded to Six More Countries
On January 31, the Trump administration announced an expansion of the travel ban after a year-long review by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that evaluated the safety performance and protocols of approximately 200 countries. The six additional countries are: Burma, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Sudan. For a few of the countries – Burma, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, and Nigeria – the restrictions are only applicable to immigrant visas. For Sudan and Tanzania, the restrictions are being placed on diversity visas, which are awarded through a lottery program that grants visas to prospective immigrants randomly each year.
On November 13, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a proposed rule that would bar asylum-seekers from receiving work authorization while their application is pending. If implemented, this rule would have a significant impact on asylum-seeking aliens. Granting hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers – even those in removal proceedings – work authorization incentivizes illegal immigration. By taking away work authorization, the United States can begin to sort through baseless asylum claims and locate and emphasize those that meet the appropriate standards for asylum relief.
Trump Administration Signs Asylum Agreement with El Salvador
On September 20, the United States signed a “cooperative asylum agreement” with El Salvador stipulating that migrants from third countries who would otherwise seek refuge in the U.S. would be permitted to remain in El Salvador. In exchange, the U.S. pledged American investment in the Central American nation. Although few details are presently available, the agreement is similar to one made with Guatemala in July. It reflects the Trump administration’s strategy of reaching agreements with individual countries in the region as a means to stem the flow of migrants to the U.S.
Progress Made On Border Wall
According to a November 4 tweet from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Chief Carla Provost, 78 miles of construction of the border wall system have been completed; 158 miles are under construction; and 273 miles are in the pre-construction phase.
Progress on the border wall follows President Trump’s early September decision to divert $3.6 billion in military construction funds toward building the wall – a decision supported by a July Supreme Court ruling. On July 26, the justices lifted a lower court injunction that was preventing progress on plans to expand the border wall with Mexico by utilizing approximately $2.5 billion in unspent military funds for wall projects in California, Arizona and New Mexico.
The administration hopes to complete 450 miles of border wall by the end of 2020.
Supreme Court Permits Administration to Enforce “Safe Third Country” Rule
On September 11, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court handed a major win to the Trump administration by temporarily permitting the nationwide enforcement of the “safe third country” asylum rule that has spent the previous two months bouncing around the lower courts. The rule, which was fast-tracked by the administration in July, would deem migrants ineligible for asylum if they failed to make their request in a designated safe third country which they had passed through on their way to the United States.
The rule was first blocked by U.S. District Court Judge Jon Tigar of the Northern District of California who issued a nationwide injunction immediately after it took effect. However, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals narrowed the California-based judge’s injunction to states within the circuit, permitting the rule to remain in place in Texas and New Mexico while being blocked in California and Arizona.
Apprehensions at the Southern Border Continue to Decline
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) apprehended a total of 64,000 individuals at the southwest border – a 22 percent drop from the previous month, and a nearly 56 percent drop since a high of 144,000 in May. Such relatively low numbers have not been recorded since January 2019.
The drop can be attributed to three factors: the Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as the “remain in Mexico” policy; the agreement with Mexico to reduce Central American migration; and the Administration’s announcement of its plans to terminate the Flores agreement (see below).
Trump Administration Paves the Way for the Termination of the Flores Agreement
On August 21, the secretaries of the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Health and Human Services (HHS) jointly announced a final rule paving the way for the termination of the Flores Settlement Agreement (FSA) of 1997. The proposed rule, which waives the current 20-day limit on detention of families with children will take effect 60 days after its announcement, i.e. in late October 2019.
As DHS points out: “The FSA always contained provisions for its implementation in regulations and its termination – originally, it was to remain in effect no more than five years; and then, in 2001, the parties agreed it would terminate after a final rulemaking. Beginning in 2005, prior administrations repeatedly announced plans for a rule. No prior administration, however, issued a final rule. With this achievement now complete, the FSA will terminate by its own terms (…).”
The move is part of the Trump administration’s efforts to close those asylum loopholes which encourage illegal immigration by treating children as get-out-of-jail-free cards.
U.S. Signs Asylum Agreement with Guatemala
On July 26, the United States signed a “safe third country” agreement with the Central American nation of Guatemala. If finalized, the deal would require migrants passing through Guatemala on their way to the United States to apply for asylum in the first safe country they enter. The Guatemalans agreed to a deal after President Trump threatened to levy tariffs on the country. In exchange for the agreement, the U.S. offered to increase access to the H-2A farmworker program for Guatemalan citizens.
Arrests at the Southern Border Crossings Down
According to the Washington Post, the number of family-unit apprehensions on the southern border have declined about 13 percent since the start of June. The decline is partly attributed to action taken by Mexico to more strictly enforce its border in order to avoid the possible imposition of tariffs.
Their action was prompted by an agreement Mexico signed with the U.S. pledging to increase enforcement, deploy its National Guard, crack down on human smuggling, and otherwise assist the United States in reducing the surge in illegal migration from Central America.
The U.S. will also expand the implementation of the “stay in Mexico” asylum policy.
ICE to Begin Removing Millions of Illegal Aliens
President Trump announced that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will begin to target for removal illegal aliens who’ve received final deportation orders and exhausted all appeals afforded to them.
President Signs Memo Enforcing the Legal Responsibilities of Immigrant Sponsors
President Trump signed a memorandum that will finally enforce a 23-year-old provision requiring sponsors of legal immigrants to reimburse the government for any social services the immigrant uses in the United States. The provision was part of a welfare reform package signed into law in 1996 by then-President Bill Clinton, but which has not been consistently enforced until now. Under the provision, and President Trump’s memorandum, future immigrant sponsors will be required to sign an affidavit ensuring financial responsibility for the sponsored immigrant. Additionally, the memo creates a collection mechanism to recover any needed funds from the sponsor.
Trump Signs Memo to End Asylum Abuse
President Trump issued a Presidential Memorandum directing his administration to curb the ongoing asylum abuse occurring at our borders. In the Presidential Memo, the President directed his administration to propose regulations that would: streamline court proceedings for aliens who pass initial credible fear determinations; adjudicate all asylum applications in immigration courts within 180 days of filing; require fees for asylum applications and work permit applications; bar aliens who have entered (or attempted to enter) the country illegally from receiving provisional work permits prior to being approved for relief; and immediately revoke the work authorization of aliens who receive final removal orders.
Attorney General Barr Cracks Down on Catch-and-Release
Cracking down on the catch-and-release loophole, Attorney General William Barr directed immigration judges to detain asylum-seekers until their removal proceedings have concluded. The Attorney General’s order is a valuable step in the right direction. However, per the Flores Settlement Agreement, this decision will not be applicable to unaccompanied alien minors or family units, which account for nearly 60 percent of individuals apprehended in recent months. Furthermore, Barr opted to delay implementation of the order for 90 days to give the Department of Homeland Security enough time to find or create new detention space and reorganize current operations.
President Trump Declares National Emergency
On February 15, President Trump declared a state of emergency at the southern border, utilizing his executive powers to redirect monies toward construction of a border wall. According to the White House, up to $8.1 billion will become available to build the border wall including: $601 million from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund, up to $2.5 billion under the Department of Defense funds transferred for Support for Counterdrug Activities, up to $3.6 billion reallocation from the Department of Defense military construction projects, and the $1.375 billion from a congressional spending package. Although the declaration received criticism from congressional Democrats—even before the official announcement— since 1976, American presidents have declared nearly 60 national emergencies.
DHS Announces Final Rule for a More Merit-Based, Effective, and Efficient H-1B Visa Program
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) posted for public inspection a final rule amending regulations governing H-1B cap-subject petitions, including those that may be eligible for the advanced degree exemption. The final rule reverses the order by which U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) selects H-1B petitions under the H-1B regular cap and the advanced degree exemption, and it introduces an electronic registration requirement for petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions.
DHS Announces Major Change to U.S. Asylum Policy
Before the New Year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a new asylum policy aimed at confronting the growing illegal immigration crisis in the United States. Effective immediately, the United States will begin the process of invoking Section 235(b)(2)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Under the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP), individuals arriving in or entering the United States from Mexico—illegally or without proper documentation—may be returned to Mexico for the duration of their immigration proceedings.
President Trump Signs Proclamation to Address Deficiencies in the Asylum Process
President Trump signed a presidential proclamation to make important alterations to the asylum process by attempting to reduce the flood of migrants who enter the United States illegally before asking for asylum. Under an interim final rule that implements the proclamation, individuals wishing to file an asylum claim will be required to present themselves at legal ports of entry, where a determination can be made about whether they have a ‘credible fear’ of persecution in their homelands. Those with valid credible fear claims will be admitted to the United States. FAIR President Dan Stein hailed the proclamation as a “necessary first step” in protecting the integrity of our asylum laws.
President Deploys 5,200 Troops to the U.S.-Mexico Border
Towards the very end of October, President Trump deployed 5,200 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in an attempt to secure it and contain the migrant crisis. The move was necessary because the growing tide of caravans and illegal border crossers are close to overwhelming the system while Congress has failed to fund President Trump’s border wall.
Administration Releases New Rule on Public Charge Exclusions
The Trump Administration published its highly anticipated proposed rule on public charge exclusions— reiterating the common sense notion that no immigrant should become a burden to the United States. This proposed rule is common sense. Immigrants are supposed to be a benefit, not a hardship, to the United States. Additionally, welfare programs are meant to serve the most vulnerable of Americans as stopgap measures to assist them during their times of need. At a time when the American welfare system is already overburdened and over extended, this proposed rule remains in line with President Trump’s campaign promise to put Americans first, the campaign promise for which the majority of Americans voted.
Trump Administration Lowers FY 2019 Refugee Cap to 30,000
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States would set the refugee cap for FY 2019 at 30,000. This is a significant reduction from 45,000 in FY 2018 and President Obama’s cap for FY 2017 (110,000).
Justice Department Touts New Immigration Judges, Quicker Hiring
The Justice Department hailed progress in reducing long-standing delays in hiring more immigration judges. In early August, 23 new judges were invested by the department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), the largest class since at least 2010, the department announced. That represents a cut in average hiring time by more than 50 percent, which the department said was the result of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' effort at streamlining hiring under deadlines announced last year.
President Trump Deports WWII Nazi Collaborator
This week, a 95-year-old former Nazi collaborator, who served as a labor camp guard during World War II was finally deported to Germany after a long immigration battle in the United States. Palij, a former concentration camp guard, immigrated to the United States in 1949 and became a citizen in 1957. At the time, he lied to U.S. immigration officials about his role in the war. It was not until much later that federal authorities learned of Palij’s true involvement as a guard, and his citizenship was revoked in 2003. The United States cannot criminally prosecute World War II crimes that were carried out overseas, but Palij’s deportation was ordered in 2004 after a judge said he had falsified his immigration application. Despite his deportation order, Palij remained in the United States for more than a decade because no other nation was willing to take him.
Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Trump Administration on Travel Ban
The Supreme Court issues a decision upholding the Trump administration’s ban on travel from certain countries that posed national security risks. As FAIR has consistently noted, Congress has delegated to the president clear, unambiguous authority to suspend entry to any alien or class of aliens deemed detrimental to the interests of the United States. Therefore, the Supreme Court interpreted the law correctly and acted responsibly when it ruled the ban to be constitutional.
Trump Administration Terminates TPS for Honduras
Winding down TPS for Hondurans follows similar steps in recent months to end "temporary" protections for other nations that, in some cases, have stretched out for two decades. In doing so, the administration has restored public confidence that the TPS program can function as intended – namely, providing short term relief to people whose nations have been disrupted by a natural disaster or a political crisis.
Justice Department Announces “Zero Tolerance Policy” for Illegal Entry
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, adamantly telegraphed this new policy change: “If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple. If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you make false statements to an immigration officer or file a fraudulent asylum claim, that’s a felony. If you help others to do so, that’s a felony, too. You’re going to jail. So if you’re going to come to this country, come here legally. Don’t come here illegally.”
In the face of criticism from Congress, President Trump ended family separation through an executive order in June 2018. His EO also instructed the Attorney General to seek the modification of the Flores Settlement and to prioritize the adjudication of cases of detained families. In turn, the DHS was ordered to keep in custody detained families during criminal and asylum proceedings and as their asylum claims are adjudicated and the DOD to find or construct facilities for detained families.
President Trump Deploys National Guard Troops to Southern Border
After Congress failed to fund the border wall and other resources, President Trump directed the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to work together with governors to deploy the National Guard to the southern border. While the Guardsmen are not permitted to make arrests, they cover supportive roles giving Border Patrol agents time for substantive activities including the apprehension and detention of illegal aliens. Since then, several states – including the border states of California and New Mexico – have either refused to deploy or have withdrawn all or most of their National Guardsmen.
Justice Department Imposes Quotas on Immigration Judges
The Department of Justice introduced production quotas for immigration judges to reduce the enormous immigration court backlog. Immigration courts handle the civil cases of illegal aliens seeking to stay in the United States. With a backlog approaching 700,000 cases, the delayed system allows people who should be swiftly deported to stay in the country for years waiting for a court date. In many cases, illegal aliens don’t even bother to show up in court, electing to disappear into the country to live and work in the shadows.
Trump Administration Announces Citizenship Question on 2020 Census
The Department of Commerce announced that it would include a question on the 2020 Census asking whether respondents are U.S. citizens. The announcement touched off a firestorm of protest by Democratic lawmakers and the open borders lobby, claiming that asking people to anonymously check a box on a form is threatening and will affect the integrity of the decennial headcount. In February 2019, the Supreme Court agreed to take up the case and is expected to hold hearings in April. The Census Bureau announced in April that it was prepared to issue the forms with or without the citizenship question.
Justice Department Sues California Over Sanctuary Policies
The Justice Department escalated its war on dangerous sanctuary jurisdictions, alleging in a lawsuit that three recently enacted California laws obstruct enforcement of federal immigration law and harm public safety. In July 2018, a federal judge (an appointee of George W. Bush) rejected much of the DOJ’s challenge. The federal government appealed the unfavorable decision and is making its case against sanctuary jurisdictions in front of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Trump Administration Ends TPS for El Salvador
New DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced that the agency will end TPS for roughly 260,000 Salvadorans who have enjoyed protections since a series of devastating earthquakes ravaged their country nearly 20 years ago. This determination was long overdue and welcome, sending the strongest signal yet that rampant abuse of the TPS program will not be accepted by the Trump administration.
Trump Administration Terminates Temporary Protected Status for Haiti
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that conditions in Haiti no longer warranted continuation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Despite acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke’s determination “that those extraordinary but temporary conditions caused by the 2010 earthquake no longer exist,” the department generously extended Haitian TPS beneficiaries an 18 month grace period to allow for “an orderly transition” to their homeland.
President Trump Fulfills Campaign Promise to End DACA
The Trump Administration announced plans to phase out Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) amnesty program, unlawfully created by President Obama in 2012.
Due to various court cases, at the time of this publication, current DACA recipients remain eligible to renew permits, but new applicants remain prohibited from applying. In late August 2018, a federal judge ruled that DACA is likely unconstitutional – stating that “if the nation truly wants a DACA program, it is up to Congress to say so” – but nevertheless left it in place as litigation continues.
President Trump Issues Presidential Proclamation Enhancing Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats
The Proclamation titled, “the Proclamation on Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats,” limits entry into the U.S. of nationals from eight countries (Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, and Somalia), replacing much of President Trump’s initial national security executive order (“Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”).
President Trump Sets FY 2018 Refugee Cap to Responsible 45,000
The Trump administration informed Congress that it will limit the number of refugees entering the United States to 45,000 for the next fiscal year. The new cap returned the refugee resettlement rate back to traditional levels. Previously, President Obama had increased the annual cap for FY 2017 by more than double from FY 2015, to an unprecedented 110,000 refugees per year, before leaving office.
Trump Administration Withdraws DAPA Amnesty
The Department of Homeland Security announced the termination of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program, which granted deportation relief and work authorization to the illegal alien parents of U.S. citizen or green card holder children.
After the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 4–4 split decision in June 2016 effectively leaving in place a block on the program, the Trump Administration announced on June 15, 2017 plans to rescind the DAPA executive order.
President Trump Signs Executive Order Establishing the Commission on Election Integrity
Executive Order 13799 titled, “the Establishment of Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity,” established the Commission on Election Integrity, which reviews claims of voter fraud and improper registration. The commission was ultimately disbanded by President Trump in January 2018. “Despite substantial evidence of voter fraud, many states have refused to provide the [Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity] with basic information relevant to its inquiry,” stated the White House. The investigation itself was transferred to the DHS.
President Trump Signs Buy American and Hire American Executive Order
Executive Order 13788, titled “Buy American and Hire American,” directed government departments to review guest worker programs and implement changes that favor American workers over cheap foreign labor. The executive order also sought to reform how H-1B visas are awarded, calling on federal agencies to suggest changes to the programs to ensure jobs go to the most-skilled or highest-paid applicants.
President Trump Signs Executive Order Ensuring Proper Vetting of Foreign Nationals Before They Enter the United States
Executive Order 13780, titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” ensured that foreign nationals were properly vetted before they gain entry to the country. This EO revised and replaced the similar order the President signed in January. The revised executive order imposed a temporary freeze on entry by individuals from six countries that are hotbeds for terrorism, and suspended the entry into the U.S. for 90 days for aliens from the following countries: Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and Sudan.
President Trump Withdraws the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)
The TPP is a trade agreement that was negotiated by former President Obama. Long opposed by FAIR, a key feature of the trade agreement was a “temporary entry” guest worker program that would have increased immigration without a say from Congress (which has plenary authority over immigration) or the American people. Since taking office, President Trump has also worked to renegotiate trade agreements to make them more favorable to American workers and U.S. national interests.
President Trump Signs Executive Order Authorizing Construction of Border Wall on the Southern Border
Executive Order 13767, titled “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” authorized the immediate construction of a border wall on America’s southern border. The executive order used the power vested in the President to “deploy all lawful means to secure the Nation’s southern border, prevent further illegal immigration into the United States, and repatriate illegal aliens swiftly, consistently and humanely.” Although portions of border fence or physical barriers have started construction, funding issues with Congress, particularly the Democrat-controlled House, have slowed the process. President Trump declared a national emergency in February 2019 in an effort to reallocate funding for the wall. However, that fight will continue as Congress is responsible for appropriating funds and likely will make every effort to block the president.
President Trump Signs Executive Order Withholding Funds From Sanctuary Jurisdictions
Executive Order 13768, titled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” stated that sanctuary jurisdictions who refused to comply with immigration enforcement measures would not be eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or Secretary of Homeland Security.*
Later that year, a federal judge issued a summary judgment that ruled Section 9(a) of the Executive Order was unconstitutional on its face and issued a permanent nationwide injunction against its implementation. According to the Associated Press, as of March, the Justice Department threatened to withhold funding from 29 jurisdictions nationwide, but except for one, all have received or have been cleared to receive funding.
President Trump Signs Executive Order Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States
Executive Order 13769, titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” imposed a temporary ban on entry by individuals from countries that are hotbeds for terrorism. Specifically, this temporary ban applied to the following countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and Sudan. Due to various court rulings, this Executive Order was eventually superseded by Executive Order 13780.