Trump Administration’s Recent Restrictive Immigration Policy Changes

Expanding expedited removals – The Trump Administration published a notice in July announcing an expansion of immigration authorities’ use of expedited removals to deport immigrants from the United States. Expedited removal is a process that allows immigration officers to bypass the immigration-court system and order the deportation of immigrants apparently subject to removal without their case being reviewed by an immigration judge, preventing the immigrant from being represented by immigration lawyers or fighting against their deportation. The immigration law permits immigration officers to use the expedited removal process for immigrants encountered anywhere in the United States for up to two years after the immigrant’s arrival. Until July, however, the expedited removal process was only being used when immigrants (who had arrived by crossing a land border) were encountered within 100 miles of the country’s border and had been in the United States for fewer than 14 days. Under the new policy, immigration officials will exercise their authority in all cases permitted by the immigration law – specifically immigrants “encountered anywhere in the United States more than 100 air miles from a U.S. international land border, and who have been continuously present in the United States for less than two years.”

Restricting asylum eligibility – In another controversial move this July, the Trump Administration finalized a new rule restricting asylum eligibility, primarily aimed at Central American immigrants arriving at the southern United States border seeking asylum. The rule states that “with limited exceptions, an alien who enters or attempts to enter the United States across the southern border after failing to apply for protection in a third country outside the alien’s country of citizenship, nationality, or last lawful habitual residence through which the alien transited en route to the United States is ineligible for asylum.” The legality of this rule was immediately challenged in federal court, and a federal court issuing a preliminary injunction blocking the policy from taking effect while that challenge was pending. This past week, however, the United States Supreme Court stayed that injunction, meaning the new rule restricting asylum eligibility will be allowed to take effect.

Expanding inadmissibility on public charge grounds – In August, a rule became final that has been criticized for deterring permanent residents and citizens of the United States from using public benefits to which they are entitled. The rule replaces previous policy outlining how immigration officials should evaluate whether an immigrant applicant for admission to the United States or adjustment of status “is likely at any time to become a public charge,” and is therefore ineligible for legal status. The goal of the rule is to implement Congressional policy to ensure that immigrants do not “depend on public resources to meet their needs, but rather rely on their own capabilities and the resources of their families, their sponsors, and private organizations,” and to ensure “the availability of public benefits [does] not constitute an incentive for immigration to the United States.” The rule “explains the factors DHS will consider in the totality of the circumstances when making a public charge inadmissibility determination” (including “the alien’s age; health; family status; assets, resources, and financial status; and education and skills”), and provides definitions for terms such as “public benefit” and “public charge.”

Stripping immigration courts of independent authority – In a move heavily criticized by immigration lawyers and immigration judges nationwide, in August the Trump Administration announced an interim rule that functionally strips immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals of their independent decision-making authority. The rule allows the director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review, a Trump political appointee (James McHenry), to decide cases that are not completed in a “timely fashion.” Prior to this rule, only immigration judges, the Board of Immigration Appeals, and the Attorney General of the United States were permitted to decide cases. Critics argue that a political appointee should not be permitted to shape case law to comport with the Trump Administration’s political agenda.

If you have any questions about how these changes affect you and you wish to speak with an immigration lawyer, please contact Malott Law, PLC at 319-358-1900.

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