What to Expect Under President Trump’s Administration

We at Human Rights Initiative of North Texas are very concerned about the election of Donald Trump as our President, but we have not lost hope.  The current administration has been far from perfect on immigration policies, needlessly locking up children and mothers, under-funding immigration courts and not doing enough to humanize the individuals who flee from persecution and poverty to this country because it stands for freedom, justice and opportunity.

For now we can say, the laws which offer immigration relief and protection to our clients cannot be undone with just the stroke of a pen. We take solace in that fact and continue to open our doors and offer services to the most vulnerable immigrants in North Texas.  Donald Trump will officially take office on January 20th, 2017.

FAQ (We will continue to update this list as more information is released):

My {VAWA/U-Visa/Asylum/Other Relief) application is pending, what can I expect?

Unfortunately, it is still unclear how Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will operate under President Trump’s administration.  If your application is pending, we recommend keeping your receipt notice with you at all times to show to an ICE official. If you are an HRI client and have lost your receipt notice, please contact our office immediately.

What will happen to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program?

President-elect Trump has declared in both his Immigration Plan and his plan for the first 100 days of his presidency that he will terminate President Obama’s “illegal executive amnesties.”  We are assuming this means he will repeal DACA soon after he takes office.  We do not yet know what this means for current DACA recipients –if they will be allowed to live in the U.S. with their work permit until it expires or not. As we learn more we will continue to update this FAQ with information.

 

What We Know:

We have compiled, to the best of our ability, information related to immigration policy taken from the plan Donald Trump put forth during his campaign.  It is difficult to know what is truly in President-elect Trump’s agenda due to his lack of specifics and what the nation would be able to afford and implement.

The concerns outlined below are based on the “specifics” outlined in the Immigration plan on Mr. Trump’s website. HRI is also worried about our clients who are eligible for certain relief under U.S. law but have not obtained a decision due to delays in the system.  These clients technically do not have legal status in the United States, although they are working diligently through our laws to obtain it.  We hope that these applications will be respected and that these clients will not be detained or otherwise subject to harsh immigration penalties.

Based on his Immigration Plan, we have the following concerns:

“Immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties”

We assume this means repeal of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), along with the possible deportation of those who have gained benefits under it.  DACA recipients are young people who were brought to the United States as children, have achieved a high school education, and want nothing more than to live and work legally (including paying taxes!) in the only real home they’ve ever known.  We call on President Trump and Congress to continue to protect them. Deporting these individuals would hurt the U.S. economy and harm those we consider to be Americans.

“Under a Trump administration, anyone who illegally crosses the border will be detained until they are removed out of our country.”

HRI is gravely concerned about the detention of asylum-seekers, including women and children crossing the U.S. southern border (and others for whom there is no security reason to detain).  It is against U.S. treaty obligations to detain asylum-seekers.  It is also financially burdensome.  Detaining all who cross the border will make it difficult for those fleeing persecution to find attorneys and there are crucial due process and international law concerns about holding asylum seekers in detention. This policy will also be incredibly expensive.  Right now we spend over $2 billion a year detaining immigrants and that number is already going up.  There are not enough detention beds to hold the immigrants it appears Trump plans to detain.  It currently costs $126/day to $161/day to detain an immigrant (although it’s been as high as $342/day).  These detention centers are often run by private corporations who have monetized the incarceration of immigrants.  The Department of Justice earlier this year has stated it will halt the use of private prison corporations due to concerns about the treatment of those in these facilities; it appears that, despite recommendations that DHS follow suit, DHS will continue to allow private corporations to detain immigrants for profit, at taxpayer expense.  Those in detention must be treated with dignity.

If those fleeing violence are detained upon entry and never released, it will be difficult for these immigrants to obtain lawyers.  Detention centers are very often located far from cities.  If those escaping persecution and abuse cannot find lawyers, they may not be able to adequately state their claims and could be sent back to their deaths.

“We will triple the number of ICE agents. Anyone who enters the U.S. illegally is subject to deportation.”

We have major concerns about this policy related to our clients, especially asylum-seekers and children and families who come to the U.S. border seeking protection from their dangerous home countries.  We call on the new administration to continue the use of credible fear interviews in which asylum officers screen any new-arrival immigrant about fear of return to their home country.  These interviews need to be conducted in good faith and immigrants who pass them should be released until they can have their case heard by an immigration judge.  These people are still entitled to protection under our nation’s asylum laws, which must be upheld.

Tripling the number of ICE and Border Patrol agents will be incredibly expensive. In fiscal year 2016 the United States spent over $20 billion on enforcement.  The new administration must remember that any increase in ICE requires an increase in the funding of immigration courts.  These courts are already severely underfunded which has led to backlogs of several years for most cases.

Vet applicants to ensure they support America’s values, institutions and people, and temporarily suspend immigration from regions that export terrorism and where safe vetting cannot presently be ensured.” and “Suspend the issuance of visas to any place where adequate screening cannot occur, until proven and effective vetting mechanisms can be put into place.” 

It is unclear what this vetting would consist of, but we are concerned that people with valid asylum claims and other claims will be denied admission to the U.S.  Many of our asylum-seeking clients arrive in the United States on visitor and student visas as a means of escaping persecution and torture.  We are afraid this will especially impact our clients from Muslim-majority countries.  This concern goes beyond our potential clients and includes anyone who seeks the opportunities our country offers, but who might be denied based on religious beliefs or some type of political litmus test.  Our country already has many procedures in place to ensure that people who apply to come here are not terrorists or dangers to national security.

“Ensure that other countries take their people back when we order them deported.”

Of the many seemingly impossible policies laid forth, we are not sure how our new president expects to achieve this particular agenda item.  President-elect Trump cannot force a country to do anything against its will, as he will be president of the United States, not the world. Nonetheless, this gives rise to grave concerns that people will be sent back to their deaths.  Our clients come from all over the world, including Central America, South American, Africa, and Asia. This includes countries that are at war (Syria, Iraq), countries that are undergoing violent uprisings (Venezuela, Burundi), countries that commit heinous torture against opponents (Somilia, Zimbabwe, DRC, Rwanda, Ethiopia) and countries that have records of detaining and killing those who have been returned from the United States (Iran and Eritrea).

HRI further hopes that the new administration will continue to uphold the laws we use to help our clients and other immigrant victims of violence, abuse and threats.  Our asylum laws are part of the U.S.’s international obligations and stand as a beacon to the world that we protect human rights and freedom.  The Violence Against Women Act has been in force for over 20 years, helping immigrant survivors of domestic violence and abuse.  Our U Visa laws protect crime victims and make communities safer by fostering trust with law enforcement.  The new administration must also continue to protect children fleeing from gang, family, and other violence in their home countries.  We hope Mr. Trump does not make it a priority to round up law-abiding immigrants.

Finally, based on statements Mr. Trump made repeatedly during the campaign, we worry that there will be an increased backlash against our clients and all immigrants, many of whom have been demonized.  We hope he will soften his rhetoric and wholly, immediately and powerfully reject discrimination and violence against, among others, Muslims, Mexicans, other Hispanics and immigrants in general.