Donald Trump on Immigration, Pros and Cons of His Policies

Pros and Cons of Donald Trump's Immigration Policies

immigrant caravan
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 Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

President Trump's immigration policies follow economic nationalism. Trump's "Put America First" program seeks to protect American workers and industries. It also reverses decades of U.S. immigration policy that called for countries to "Send me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free."

Trump's immigration policies center around six major areas. It would rescind deportation deferrals for immigrants who arrived in the United States as children. It restricts travel and work visas from eight countries. The administration has increased screening of refugees while cutting staff. Trump's budget includes funding for a border wall with Mexico. It is also reviewing the H-1B visa program. Trump's plan also proposes many curbs on legal immigration.

The foreign-born population in the U.S. reached 44.5 million in 2017, 13.7 percent of the total population. The majority of those people came from Asia (41 percent) and Latin America (39 percent). Below you can see a breakdown of historic immigration to the U.S. from 1850 to 2016.

On October 31, 2018, the Trump administration promised to send up to 15,000 troops to the Mexico border. The migrants are seeking asylum from dangerous and oppressive conditions in their home country. They have banded together to protect each other on the dangerous trek and to avoid using human traffickers.

DACA

On January 9, 2018, the U.S. District Court in San Francisco ruled that "Dreamers" are protected from deportation. Those eligible for DACA cannot be deported until the matter is resolved in court. The judgment overrides Trump's announcement that he would end DACA on March 5, 2018. Trump wants Congress to create a replacement. 

On January 26, 2018, Trump released an immigration plan. It would offer a 12-year path to citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants who arrived in the United States illegally as children. It would replace President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

On April 24, 2018, the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Department of Homeland Security must better explain its reasons for canceling DACA. If it doesn't do so in 90 days, the department must resume processing DACA applications.

DACA offers a two-year deferral of deportation for eligible immigrants. Eligible people are those under 31 who were illegally brought to the United States as children. President Obama launched the program with an executive order in 2012. Since then, it has given 787,580 “Dreamers” a work permit. 

The Cato Institute estimated that elimination of DACA could cost the economy $215 billion over 10 years. That's the amount of lost spending power from these employed young people. 

On August 4, 2018, a federal judge ruled the Trump administration must fully restore DACA. On November 8, 2018, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld DACA.

Travel Ban

On December 4, 2017, the Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to implement its travel ban while ongoing litigation proceeds. On September 24, 2017, Trump issued restrictions on travel from eight countries.

  1. Chad: Bans immigrant, business and tourist visas.
  2. Iran: Bans immigrant, business and tourist visas. Allows student and exchange visitor visas.
  3. Libya: Bans immigrant, business and tourist visas.
  4. North Korea: Bans immigrant and tourist visas.
  5. Somalia: Bans immigrant visas except for those with family or an infant needing medical care.
  6. Syria: Bans immigrant, business and tourist visas.
  7. Venezuela: Bans business and tourist visas to government employees and their families.
  8. Yemen: Bans immigrant, business and tourist visas.

    The variations depended on well the countries adhered to recommended security measures. 

    On October 17 and 18, 2017, federal courts halted portions of President Trump's travel bans. The judges said that the bans on predominantly-Muslim countries are unconstitutional. They interpreted Trump's own words to infer that his bans on Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen were based on religion.

    Trump's latest order replaces the one he signed on March 6, 2017. It prohibited visas for citizens from six countries. They were Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. They are "countries of concern" according to a 2016 law concerning immigration visas.

    The ban did not include 500,000 legal green card holders (permanent resident aliens) and existing visa holders. It also exempted diplomats and members of international organizations. It was supposed to go into effect at 12:01 am on March 16 and remain for 90 days. The ban was stopped by a lower court order. The order replaced one Trump signed January 27, 2017. 

    Refugees

    On March 6, 2017, a Trump executive order banned refugees for 120 days unless they were already scheduled for travel. Homeland Security has reviewed the application process to prevent any exploitation by terrorists. Trump planned to halve the total number of refugees accepted to 50,000 per year. Federal judges stayed those orders. That gave the State Department the ability to increase the number of refugees to 70,000 in 2017.

    On October 24, 2017, the Trump administration allowed refugees from all but 11 countries. For the next 90 days, refugees from those countries had to show their arrival would be in the U.S. "national interest." The 11 countries included Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Syria, and Sudan. One official said they account for 63 percent of refugees. 

    According to the Pew Research Center, 53,716 refugees were resettled in the United States during FY2017. A breakdown in the bar chart below shows that refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo were the biggest group, accounting for 17 percent. They were followed by refugees from Iraq (13 percent), Syria (12 percent), Somalia (11 percent), and other countries.

    In 2018, the Trump administration cut the staff that conducts clearance interviews overseas and intensified the screening process for refugees. It also doubled the number of people it characterizes as high-risk, increasing their screening process. As a result, it's estimated that only 20,000 refugees will enter America by the end of the year. That's the lowest figure since the resettlement program was created with passage of the Refugee Act in 1980.

    The steepest decline is with Muslims. In fiscal 2016, 38,900 Muslim refugees came to the United States, according to the State Department. In 2017, that number fell to 22,861. Only 2,107 entered in the first six months of 2018.

    Asylum Seekers

    The Trump administration wants to eliminate the appeals process for asylum seekers. Instead, it wants to deport anyone who shows up at the border without documentation. It also briefly separated children from their parents to discourage other undocumented immigrants.

    Trump also wants to restrict asylum applicants to designated ports of entry. A federal district judge ruled against the order because it also allows the administration to close the entire border to asylum seekers.

    On October 31, 2018, the Trump administration sent 5,800 troops to the Mexico border. A caravan of thousands of Honduran refugees were seeking asylum from dangerous conditions in their home country. They banded together to protect each other on the dangerous trek and avoid using human traffickers.

    One reason for the uptick in refugees is an increase in drug-related violence. Crime in Honduras soared after Salvadoran drug gangs took over. The illegal drug trade to the United States moved there from the Caribbean, according to the Wall Street Journal.

    On November 25, 2018, the United States closed the border to Mexico. Customs agents fired tear gas at members of the caravan who had rushed the border fend.

    Wall on the Border With Mexico

    President Trump promised to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. He budgeted $25 billion. Statistics show a wall alone won't stop illegal crossing from Mexico. Even if it were successful, it would only stop half of illegal immigration.

    Trump promised to force Mexico to pay for it. If it refused, he threatened to change a rule under the USA Patriot Act antiterrorism law. That would confiscate Western Union money transfers sent to Mexico from immigrants in the United States illegally. The Mexican central bank reported that it received $25 billion from abroad. There are no exact figures on how much of that is from U.S. immigrants. 

    Since Mexico refused to pay for the wall, President Trump asked Congress to appropriate the money. He would ask Mexico to pay for it later. (Source: "Trump Asking Congress, Not Mexico, to Pay for Border Wall," CNN Politics, January 6, 2017.)

    Many Republicans oppose the border wall. Those from California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas face the most consequences. They say the wall won't work, especially without added security forces. Others worry about the impact on the environment in their states. Democrats are also opposed to the wall.

    H-1B Visa Program

    On April 19, 2017, Trump signed an executive order asking the Department of Homeland Security to review the H-1B visa program. He wants to make sure that only highly-paid skilled immigrants receive the visas. He doesn't want any to go to foreign workers that are paid less than their U.S. counterparts. It could take years for the review to be carried out. 

    The order is directed at Indian firms like Tata Consultancy, Infosys and Wipro. They are located in the United States, but hire many immigrants from India. Facebook and Qualcomm are also big users of the H-1B visa. Fifteen percent of their workers are immigrants under the program. 

    The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service is sending many H-1B visa applications back for "further evidence.” At least 25 percent of such applications are being rejected compared to 20 percent a year ago.

    Silicon Valley CEOs worry that Trump might restrict this program. The Immigration Act of 1990 provides temporary visas to 315,000 foreign skilled workers. Two-thirds were for computer-related jobs. These companies would lose valuable employees without the H-1B visa program. That would hurt the success of some of Americas most profitable companies. 

    Restrict Legal Immigration

    On August 2, 2017, the Trump administration endorsed a Senate bill that curbs legal immigration. It would prioritize those who were financially self-sufficient, were highly skilled, and spoke English. It would deny green cards to adult children and extended relatives of current green card holders. Cards would only be available to spouses and children. The plan ends the diversity visa lottery

    If the bill became law, it would reduce the number of green cards issued from 1 million to 638,000 in its first year. The number of employment-based green cards would remain at 140,000 a year. Two-thirds of cards go to relatives, and 20 percent are employment-based. The rest are issued via lottery, to refugees and on other grounds. The program is similar to merit-based systems in Australia and Canada. The bill has little chance of passing. It would need a 60-vote majority in the Senate. Democrats would oppose it.

     

    Other Trump Immigration Policies

    In his 2017 State of the Union address, Trump established the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement. It helps victims of crimes committed by removable criminal aliens.

    On June 22, 2017, Trump asked Congress to prevent all immigrants from receiving welfare for the first five years in the country. The move would take away the authority of states who currently decide who is eligible for assistance programs. Trump would also enforce regulations that deny immigration status to those who seem likely to become "public charges" within the first five years of their arrival. 

    On October 8, 2017, the Trump Administration released a list of immigration requests to Congress. The wishlist requests $25 billion in funding for a wall on the border with Mexico. He wants Congress to create a bill that treats unaccompanied minors from Central American the same as those from Mexico. Currently they receive greater protection. Trump asked Congress to withhold federal funds from "sanctuary" cities. Those municipalities don't cooperate with federal immigration agents. 

    On November 1, 2017,  said he would eliminate the diversity lottery for foreigners seeking U.S. visas. He also asked the State Department to intensify extreme vetting of immigrants. He was responding to the terrorist attack that killed eight people in New York. The attacker had won his visa through the lottery.

    The Trump administration may require immigration officers to consider how many public services applicants for U.S. citizenship are using. The Department of Homeland Security would look unfavorably on those who use Medicaid, food stamps, and even the earned-income tax credit. The administration prefers applicants who are financially self-sufficient. As a result, even legal immigrants are avoiding health care and other services.

    Pros and Cons of Trump's Plans

    The Center for American Progress estimated that mass deportation would reduce U.S. gross domestic product by 1.4 percent. This liberal research group estimates that farmers would have a hard time finding replacement workers. Instead, they would be forced to cut their production to fit the reduced labor supply.

    The Cato Institute reported that it would cost $60 billion to deport the 750,000 people protected by DACA. They contribute $28 billion a year to the economy. 

    Immigration more than pays for itself. Immigrants add $1.6 trillion to the economy each year. Of that, $35 billion is a net benefit to the companies and communities where they live. The rest (97.8 percent) of that growth returns to the immigrant workers as wages. They repatriate $25 billion back to family members in Mexico. They spend the rest in America. 

    Native-born workers who compete directly with the immigrants for jobs are hurt the worst. Those are the young, less-educated, and minority workers. Their unemployment rate is higher than for older, college-educated, and white workers. 

    Illegal immigration lowers wages by 3 to 8 percent for low-skilled occupations. That averages out to $25 a week for native-born workers without high school diplomas. President Trump promised during his campaign to require companies to offer all jobs to Americans first. 

    Between 2000 and 2013, the number of native-born workers fell by 1.3 million. Studies show that they left the workforce. Many older workers retired or went on disability. Younger workers went back to school. During that same period, the number of working immigrants rose by 5.3 million. That's out of 16 million immigrants who arrived in America. 

    Immigrants cost the U.S. government between $11.4 billion and $20.2 billion each year. That means they use that much more in services than they pay in taxes. On the other hand, they cost the government less than native-born Americans with similar education and work histories. 

    Immigrants in the work force pay taxes into Social Security and Medicare. It improves the age dependency ratio, or the number of working people who support the nation's senior population. The ratio is worsening because the U.S. born population is aging. There aren't as many in the working age population to support them. As more immigrants enter the workforce, the age dependency ratio improves.

    Immigrant women are also more likely to have children. In 2014, immigrant women between the ages of 15 and 44 had 44 percent more kids than American born women of the same age. That helps support the current working population when they retire.

    Immigrants with college degrees generate $105,000 more in revenue than they receive in services over their lifetimes. Almost 53 percent of immigrants have some college. Of those, 16 percent have a graduate degree. 

    Immigrants living in the United States illegally cost the country less than legal ones. They are not eligible for many government programs. If the government granted them amnesty, the costs to society would double. (Source: "The Fiscal and Economic Impact of Immigration on the United States," The Center for Immigration Studies," May 2013.)

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