August 08, 2017

Annual 2017: New frontier of U.S. immigration policy to be explored

In a press conference on Aug. 2, President Donald Trump announced his support for a new Senate bill that would create a “merit-based” immigration system.  The new system would put a greater emphasis on foreigners’ job skills and favor applicants who speak English, and prioritize those with certain education levels and skills.

The legislation, which aims to slash legal immigration levels in half over a decade by reducing the annual number of green cards that award permanent legal residence, signals a profound change to policies that have been in place for more than half a century.

“The Trump administration has been quick to establish a big footprint on immigration policies — from travel ban, border enforcement, interior enforcement and now a radical reform of legal immigration,” said Muzaffar Chishti, director of the Migration Policy Institute's Office at New York University School of Law.

Chishti will be among immigration experts who will discuss the ramifications of these new immigration policies as part of a panel program, “Deportation, Due Process, and the New Frontier of U.S. Immigration Policy,” at the American Bar Association Annual Meeting in New York, Aug. 10-15. The program, sponsored by the ABA Judicial Division and Commission on Immigration, will take place from 2 – 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 11 at the New York Hilton Midtown. Moderating the discussion will be James R. Silkenat, New York attorney and former ABA president.  Joining Chishti on the panel will be Jojo Annobil, executive director of the Immigrant Justice Corps; Maribel Hernandez Rivera, director of Legal Initiatives for the New York Mayor’s Office; T. Alexander Aleinikoff, director of the Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility at The New School in New York City; and Bree Bernwanger, immigrant justice staff attorney Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights in San Francisco.

Earlier this year, Trump signed an executive order that restricts immigration from six Muslim-majority countries, suspends all refugee admission for 120 days and indefinitely suspends the entry of Syrian refugees. Lawful permanent residents were turned away at the airports upon returning from visits abroad – before the courts stepped in and temporarily halted the new guidelines.

But according to Chishti, the Trump administration’s most drastic impact has been its ramped-up enforcement of policies on immigrants already in the United States.

Thousands of noncitizens, visitors, immigrants and refugees are being rounded up and targeted for deportation by enforcement authorities, separating families, and swelling already overcrowded detention facilities and immigration courts.

“The Trump administration has moved away from prioritizing enforcement on violent criminals and safety threats, and made everyone a priority for deportation,” Chishti said. “That has brought a deep sense of fear and anxiety in immigrant communities across the country, making them more reluctant to cooperate with local law enforcement agencies.”

In the latest chain of events on the immigration front, Chicago filed a lawsuit on Aug. 7 against the Department of Justice over the Trump administration’s decision to cut off some police funding for so-called “sanctuary cities.” These cities that shelter illegal immigrants  have been threatened with roll-backs in federal funding for social service programs unless they employ local police officers and resources to help enforce these new federal policies.

But these new policies by the Trump administration, Chishti says “are making us less safe, not more.”