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Trump Administration Makes Significant Down Payment on Immigration Campaign Promises but Has Yet to Achieve Most Substantive Changes
Press Release
Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Trump Administration Makes Significant Down Payment on Immigration Campaign Promises but Has Yet to Achieve Most Substantive Changes

WASHINGTON — On the campaign trail, Donald Trump made immigration the centerpiece of his campaign, promising to build a “big, beautiful wall” across the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border, round up 2 million to 3 million noncitizens with criminal records, impose an ideological test and “extreme” vetting for would-be immigrants and much more. In the year since the election that propelled the Republican into the White House, how has the Trump administration’s record matched up with the rhetoric?

A new Migration Policy Institute (MPI) policy brief, Immigration under Trump: A Review of Policy Shifts in the Year Since the Election, assesses the policy changes that have occurred since January via executive orders, agency memoranda, internal guidance and program changes. MPI President Andrew Selee and Associate Policy Analyst Sarah Pierce find that the White House has made a significant down payment on the candidate’s immigration agenda, which they describe as one of the most activist of any chief executive in modern times. Still, they note that the courts, state and local jurisdictions that have limited their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement and a Congress that has yet to set aside the billions of dollars required to fulfill the Trump priorities have served as a brake on the administration’s ambitions.

“Nonetheless, the President and his allies have dramatically changed the conversation around immigration,” they write. “The President’s words and deeds during his first year in office signify a fundamental shift in thinking and policy about the future direction of immigration and America’s future.”

Among its major actions on immigration during 2017, the administration:

  • In an unprecedented act banned nationals of eight countries, most majority-Muslim, from entering the United States.
  • Reduced refugee admissions to the lowest level since the resettlement program was created in 1980.
  • Reversed the decline in arrests of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. interior that had occurred during the latter years of the Obama administration.
  • Cancelled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which is currently providing work authorization and temporary relief from deportation to approximately 690,000 unauthorized immigrants brought to the United States as children.
  • Ended the designation of Temporary Protected Status for nationals of Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan, and signaled that Hondurans and possibly Salvadorans may also lose their work authorization and protection from removal in 2018.

The policy brief notes that the administration’s support for legislation to dramatically cut legal immigration and reshape the selection of foreign-born workers has yet to gain significant traction on Capitol Hill. Nor have lawmakers rushed to provide the billions of dollars necessary to fence off the U.S.-Mexico border or add thousands of additional Border Patrol agents and immigration officers.

“The Trump administration’s record on immigration after nearly a year is one of rising enforcement, reduced refugee flows and the gradual elimination of temporary protection regimes. All signs indicate that this is a down payment on a policy vision and agenda that will result in fewer immigrants entering the country and significantly expanded detention and deportation of those here without authorization,” the policy brief concludes. “Yet it remains to be seen how quickly—and to what extent—these efforts will succeed, given the fragmented nature of U.S. policymaking; the pushback from some sectors of U.S. society, politicians, and the courts; and the extreme polarization of immigration in contemporary America.”

Read the brief here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/immigration-under-trump-review-policy-shifts.

And for a collection of MPI reports, articles and commentaries examining the Trump administration’s executive orders on immigration, see: www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/us-immigration-policy-program/data-and-analysis-related-trump-administration-executive.

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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at local, national and international levels.