Confused about President Trump’s impact on immigration? You’re not alone. After just a few months in office, Trump has already upended the immigration landscape though a series of dramatic new policies. With major announcements coming out seemingly every day, it can be tough to keep up with all the changes. Here are a few of the most significant developments you need to know about:
- The travel ban – Back in January, Trump issued a landmark executive order that imposed travel restrictions on individuals from several Middle Eastern countries. A number of US states immediately moved to challenge the order in court, resulting in a ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that blocked the ban from being enforced.
In response, the Trump administration crafted a revised executive order intended to withstand the legal objections raised by the 9th Circuit’s ruling. Under this updated order, nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen were prohibited from entering the US until at least June 14, 2017. The order also banned all refugees from resettling in the States until no sooner than mid-July. However, federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland quickly blocked the revised order as well. As of now, the Trump administration is currently appealing these rulings in federal court. However, as of this writing, employment visas are still being issued to citizens of all countries.
- H-1B reform – Trump is also taking steps to overhaul the H-1B system, a visa program that allows skilled foreign workers to take temporary jobs in the US. As part of the “Buy American Hire American” executive order announced in April, Trump has instructed several government agencies to propose new regulations to the program, with the ultimate goal of encouraging US employers to hire American workers over foreign ones.
While the order was short on specifics, experts have already identified a few of its likely consequences. For instance, agencies are now likely to focus on increasing H-1B wage minimums, so that only workers with higher salaries can qualify for an H-1B visa.
There’s also talk of changing the way H-1Bs are distributed. Right now, H-1B visas are granted through a randomized annual lottery. Yet Trump has proposed shifting to an allocation-based system that gives priority to workers with high wages and advanced degrees. This change would make it tougher for employers to hire entry-level workers from abroad, a development that could create stronger incentives for hiring American workers instead. Trump has also hinted that he may eliminate work authorization for spouses of H-1B visa holders.
Enacting such changes would likely require new legislation. But with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, it might not be long before this scenario comes to pass.
- Enhanced enforcement – Since taking office, Trump has directed immigration officers to step up their efforts to detain undocumented immigrants, and conduct additional screening at US Embassies. Agents from Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) have become noticeably more active, carrying out raids at farms, factories and other workplaces. The operations have resulted in hundreds of arrests and deportations, creating uncertainty in industries like agriculture that rely heavily on immigrant labor. To provide ICE with the manpower to carry out its heightened enforcement, the Trump administration has also proposed hiring 10,000 more agents over the next several years.
A policy known as “extreme vetting” has also been implemented, requiring consular officers to check visa applicants’ social media and online profiles prior to issuing a visa to travel to the U.S. The policy also instructs officers to conduct more in-depth screenings to check for criminal history and US immigration violations. These measures are increasing the average time it takes for visa issuance.
Given that we’ve only just passed the 100-day mark in Trump’s presidency, there’s little doubt we’ll see even more changes enacted down the road. So, if you’re currently hoping to immigrate to the US, make sure you seek the help of an experienced attorney who can help you navigate the process. Now more then ever, it’s essential that you receive expert guidance to avoid any potential difficulties.
To start exploring your options, contact D’Alessio Law Group, a full-service immigration and corporate law firm based in Los Angeles.