E.g., 06/28/2020
E.g., 06/28/2020

Data and Analysis Related to Trump Administration Actions on Immigrant and Refugee Policy

Data and Analysis Related to Trump Administration Actions on Immigrant and Refugee Policy

Since entering office, the Trump administration has proposed or implemented policies on a wide range of immigration issues, touching on everything from asylum to deportation policy, the refugee resettlement program, and admissions from certain majority-Muslim countries. These MPI research and data resources offer context to policy changes achieved and proposed, as well as the populations they affect.

For a record of immigration developments since the Trump administration began, check out this resource: Immigration-Related Policy Changes in the First Two Years of the Trump Administration.

And for a look at how state and local governments are responding to the changing environment in divergent ways, see In the Age of Trump: Populist Backlash and Progressive Resistance Create Divergent State Immigrant Integration Contexts.


Click through the tabs below to view resources by topic.

REPORT: Immigration-Related Policy Changes in the First Two Years of the Trump Administration
In the two years since President Trump entered office, U.S. immigration policy has changed in many ways. Some actions have received significant media attention and public scrutiny, and others have been implemented with little fanfare. This document chronicles these wide-reaching policy changes, covering immigration enforcement, the immigration courts, humanitarian admissions, visa processing, and more.

REPORT: Eight Key U.S. Immigration Policy Issues: State of Play and Unanswered Questions
Amid a significant reshaping of immigration policy by the Trump administration, a range of immigration topics that have not been at the forefront of debate merit further information sharing with the public and policymakers. This report examines eight issues areas that are deserving of additional review and could form the basis for future action by Congress, including H-1B reform and treatment of unaccompanied minors.

ARTICLE: Despite Flurry of Actions, Trump Administration Faces Constraints in Achieving Its Immigration Agenda
Though it has achieved success in some areas, the Trump administration’s many efforts to stiffen immigration enforcement in the U.S. interior and at the Southwest border are being consistently stymied by court injunctions, existing laws and settlements, state and local resistance, congressional pushback, and migration pressures that are beyond the government’s ability to swiftly address, as this article explores.

ARTICLE: Executive Power Showdown: Congress and White House Quarrel over Immigration Spending
Though a faceoff between the U.S. executive and legislative branches is now in the courts, with President Trump's decision to declare a national emergency so he can allocate more money for construction of a border wall, a less-noted dispute has been taking place over the Department of Homeland Security's decision to add thousands more immigration detention beds than Congress provides annually, as this article explains.

ARTICLE: Sessions: The Trump Administration’s Once-Indispensable Man on Immigration
In less than two years as Attorney General, Jeff Sessions oversaw wide-reaching changes to the U.S. immigration system. Even as the zero-tolerance policy, fights with "sanctuary" cities, and DACA termination might be more visible, Sessions' enduring legacy may be his muscular use of a little-noted authority, which he wielded to significantly reshape immigration and asylum policy by referring immigration cases to himself.

ARTICLE: Census Citizenship Question Triggers Legal and Political Fallout
Legal and political controversy surrounds the Trump administration's decision to include a question on citizenship status in the 2020 decennial census, the first such inclusion since the 1950 census. This article examines the administration's plan and pending legal challenges.

REPORT: U.S. Immigration Policy under Trump: Deep Changes and Lasting Impacts
President Trump has made reshaping the U.S. immigration system a top priority. Yet the fragmented nature of policy-making in the United States—with power split between branches and levels of government—has made it difficult to pursue some of his most ambitious proposals. This report explores the evolution of migration policy under Trump, and what these changes may mean in the long run.

COMMENTARY: The Trump Immigration Plan: A Lopsided Proposal
The White House immigration plan offered as a solution to resolve the fate of DREAMers seeks legal immigration cuts unlike any seen since 1924. In addition to a decrease of up to 40 percent in family-sponsored immigration, the proposal demands vast increases in enforcement and a retrenchment in protections for those seeking humanitarian relief. In exchange, one-sixth of the unauthorized population could gain legal status.

REPORT: Trump's First Year on Immigration Policy: Rhetoric vs. Reality
Looking back after one year in office, it is striking how just closely the Trump administration’s actions on immigration have hewed to priorities Donald Trump outlined in an uncommonly detailed policy speech in August 2016. This report revisits those pledges—from stepping up enforcement and building a wall, to ending Obama-era protections for unauthorized immigrants—to assess where the administration has made the most and least headway, as well as what might be to come in the next years.

REPORT: In the Age of Trump: Populist Backlash and Progressive Resistance Create Divergent State Immigrant Integration Contexts
As long-simmering passions related to federal immigration policies have come to a full boil, less noted but no less important debates are taking place at state and local levels with regards to policies affecting immigrants and their children. As states are increasingly diverging in their responses, this report examines how some of the key policies and programs that support long-term integration success are faring in this volatile era.

ARTICLE: Tens of Thousands in United States Face Uncertain Future, as Temporary Protected Status Deadlines Loom
The Trump administration’s announcement that it will end TPS for nationals of Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan has brought unprecedented attention to the program and its future. This Policy Beat explores past and current TPS designations and debates surrounding the program.

ARTICLE: The Travel Ban at Two: Rocky Implementation Settles into Deeper Impacts
Two years after the Trump administration’s much-litigated travel ban was created, the policy has demonstrated a significant impact on the admission of foreigners from the banned countries, as this article explores.

ARTICLE: In Upholding Travel Ban, Supreme Court Endorses Presidential Authority While Leaving Door Open for Future Challenges
The Supreme Court handed the Trump administration a major victory by upholding its much-contested travel ban. But as this article explores, the ruling left an opening for future challenges to the policy of barring groups of foreign nationals from the country.

COMMENTARY: The U.S. Falls Behind as Others Take on New Leadership Amid Record Humanitarian Pressures
The Trump administration’s decision to set the refugee ceiling at 45,000 for fiscal 2018 marks the lowest level since the refugee resettlement program was created in 1980, as this commentary explores.

POLICY BRIEF: Revised Trump Executive Order and Guidance on Refugee Resettlement and Travel Ban
This brief examines President Trump's revised executive order suspending travel from certain majority-Muslim countries and pausing refugee resettlement. It compares the revised executive order to the original one, as well as to prior practice.

COMMENTARY: The Revised Trump Travel Ban: Who Might Be Affected from the Six Targeted Countries?
The revised travel ban significantly narrows an earlier executive order that provoked chaos at U.S. airports and sparked legal challenges. Still, it represents a sharp cut in refugee resettlement and restricts nationals from six countries from newly entering the United States.

ARTICLE: Judge's Pause of Trump Travel Ban Takes Page from Republican Challenge to Obama Executive Action on DACA
An appellate court decision to halt a controversial Trump executive order has strong legal parallels to an earlier injunction blocking an Obama administration immigration initiative challenged by Republican governors. The two cases have brought new focus to the limits of executive authority in the immigration realm.

POLICY BRIEF: Trump Executive Order on Refugees and Travel Ban: A Brief Review
This brief examines key provisions of the original executive order suspending travel from certain countries and pausing the U.S. refugee resettlement program, comparing them to earlier practice.

COMMENTARY: The Refugee Resettlement Program Is an Unsuitable Target
The executive order suspending U.S. refugee resettlement has identified a singularly unsuitable target. None of the 3 million-plus refugees who have entered through the resettlement program has killed anyone in a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Singling out refugees will not make America safer.

ARTICLE: Syrian Refugees in the United States
More than 18,000 Syrian refugees have been resettled in the U.S. since civil war broke out in Syria in 2011; nearly half are under age 14. This demographic profile of Syrian refugees includes age, religion, and top destinations.

ARTICLE: Refugees and Asylees in the United States
This article delves into U.S. refugee and asylum data, including top countries of origin, states of settlement, age, gender, and more.

ARTICLE: Middle Eastern and North African Immigrants in the United States
Immigration to the U.S. from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has increased in recent years. This article examines key socioeconomic indicators, from language proficiency to employment and naturalization.

REPORT: From Control to Crisis: Changing Trends and Policies Reshaping U.S.-Mexico Border Enforcement
How did the U.S. border enforcement picture go in the span of two years from the lowest levels of illegal immigration since 1971 to a spiraling border security and humanitarian crisis? This report draws on enforcement and other data as well as analysis of changing migration trends and policies to tell this story.

COMMENTARY: Strategic Solutions for the United States and Mexico to Manage the Migration Crisis
Amid surging migration from Central America, the United States and Mexico in June 2019 agreed to a series of enforcement measures. Yet these near-term efforts will be difficult to maintain given chronic institutional weaknesses and poorly thought-out policy structures in both countries, as this commentary explores.

COMMENTARY: International Experience Suggests Safe Third-Country Agreement Would Not Solve the U.S.-Mexico Border Crisis
As the Trump administration explores the possibility of safe third-country agreements with Mexico and Guatemala, this commentary examines the evidence on such arrangements in Europe, finding them difficult to enforce and playing little role in deterring new claims.

COMMENTARY: Policy Solutions to Address Crisis at Border Exist, But Require Will and Staying Power to Execute
Closing the U.S.-Mexico border and cutting off aid to Central America would only feed the crisis unfolding at key points along the U.S.-Mexico border. This commentary outlines a range of immediate and long-term policy responses that would more effectively address the complex mix of factors fueling rising Central American migration to the United States.

ARTICLE: Remain in Mexico Plan Echoes Earlier U.S. Policy to Deter Haitian Migration
Remain in Mexico—the Trump administration policy aimed at deterring the rising numbers of migrants from Central America by requiring them to stay in Mexico through most of their U.S. asylum adjudication process—bears striking similarities to U.S. policy in the 1980s and 1990s that sought to discourage Haitians from making the sea journey to the United States, as this article explores.

ARTICLE: Trump Administration’s Unprecedented Actions on Asylum at the Southern Border Hit Legal Roadblock
The Trump administration’s latest effort to narrow the ability to apply for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border hit a legal roadblock within days of implementation. This article examines the administration's actions on asylum and other border challenges.

COMMENTARY: Asylum Reform, Not Troops, Is the Solution to Current Border Reality
Asylum reform, not the deployment of thousands of troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, represents the real path to addressing the current realities of mixed economic and humanitarian migration flows, this commentary suggests.

ARTICLE: Trump Administration’s New Indefinite Family Detention Policy: Deterrence Not Guaranteed
As the Trump administration moves to be able to indefinitely detain parents and children intercepted at the U.S.-Mexico border, whether illegal border crossers or asylum seekers, this article explores why hardline policies might not be a slam-dunk deterrent.

REPORT: The U.S. Asylum System in Crisis: Charting a Way Forward
The United States has a long tradition of providing asylum to those in need. But in recent years, case backlogs have grown and many asylum seekers now wait years for a decision. This report examines the factors that have brought the U.S. asylum system to this crisis point and proposes common-sense steps that can be taken to restore timeliness and fairness, while deterring abuses.

COMMENTARY: Far from a Retreat, the Trump Administration’s Border Policies Advance its Enforcement Aims
Even as some pundits assess President Trump's temporary end to family separation as a defeat, the deeper reality is being lost: The administration’s plan to detain all asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border, including families, is now on its way to completion, as this commentary explains.

ARTICLE: Family Separation and “Zero-Tolerance” Policies Rolled Out to Stem Unwanted Migrants, But May Face Challenges
Frustrated by an uptick in migrant apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent months, the Trump administration unveiled a set of sweeping changes. This article examines these policies.

ARTICLE: National Guard Heads to Southern Border Amid Differing Reality from Earlier Deployments
Seizing on reports of a migrant “caravan” making its way northward through Mexico, President Trump called for up to 4,000 National Guard troops to deploy to the Southern border. As this article explains, although previous presidents took similar action in response to upticks in violence and apprehensions, the picture at the border today differs on several metrics.

POLICY BRIEF: Trump Executive Order and DHS Implementation Memo on Border Enforcement: A Brief Review
On January 25, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order laying out a series of border enforcement mandates, including constructing a border wall and expanding the use of expedited removal. This brief analyzes key provisions of the order and accompanying DHS implementation guidance, comparing them to earlier policy and practice.

ARTICLE: Borders and Walls: Do Barriers Deter Unauthorized Migration?
There has been a surge in construction of border barriers over recent decades. Do walls work? This article examines the history of such barriers and assesses how effective they are at deterring illegal immigration.

ARTICLE: Mexican Immigrants in the United States
Mexican immigration to the U.S. has slowed significantly in recent years. Still, Mexicans account for the largest group of immigrants in the U.S. See how they compare to the overall foreign- and U.S.-born populations.

ARTICLE: Central American Immigrants in the United States
Large-scale Central American migration to the U.S. has been driven mainly by economic hardship and political instability. This article offers a demographic profile of Central American immigrants.

COMMENTARY: As the Trump Administration Seeks to Remove Families, Due-Process Questions over Rocket Dockets Abound
The U.S. government is operating accelerated dockets to handle the rising number of cases of families in immigration court. While it is essential to have timely, fair case processing and removal of those who have truly had their day in court and been found to be removable, using “rocket” dockets to speed up proceedings only heightens the breakdowns that are a recurring feature of the court system on its best day, as this commentary explains.

REPORT: Revving Up the Deportation Machinery: Enforcement under Trump and the Pushback
The Trump administration has significantly cranked up the immigration enforcement machinery in the U.S. interior. Yet even as arrests and deportations are up in the early Trump months, they remain less than half their peaks. This report demonstrates how pushback from California and other "sanctuary" locations makes it quite unlikely that ICE will be able to match record enforcement levels.

ARTICLE: Trump Administration Ratchets up Pressure on “Sanctuary” Jurisdictions
This article explores how the administration has steadily built a case to penalize "sanctuary" cities—those jurisdictions that in some way limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities—despite court rulings that seemed to strike a blow against these efforts.

ARTICLE: Shifting Gears, Trump Administration Launches High-Profile Worksite Enforcement Operations
An unannounced sweep of 98 convenience stores by U.S. immigration authorities may signal a new approach to worksite enforcement under the Trump administration, as this article explores.

ARTICLE: The Trump Administration at Six Months: A Sea Change in Immigration Enforcement
Making good on campaign promises to toughen immigration enforcement, the Trump administration has acted swiftly to cast a wider net in the U.S. interior. The actions represent a sea change in enforcement practice, moving from a tight focus on high-priority individuals to an era in which all unauthorized immigrants may be subject to deportation. This article explores the shifts undertaken during President Trump's first 100 days.

ARTICLE: Despite Little Action Yet by Trump Administration on Sanctuary Cities, States and Localities Rush to Respond to Rhetoric
While Donald Trump often pledged as candidate to strip funding from "sanctuary" jurisdictions that do not fully cooperate with federal immigration enforcement, his administration has taken little direct action to date. Still, the rhetoric has spurred a flurry of responses by state and local governments.

ARTICLE: Muscular Public Relations Strategy to Paint Immigrants and Immigration as Negatives Embedded Deep Within Trump Executive Orders
This article explores the sweeping requirements for data collection and reporting embedded in President Trump's executive orders on immigration and how they might help further the administration's agenda.

POLICY BRIEF: Trump Executive Order and DHS Guidance on Interior Enforcement: A Brief Review
This brief analyzes key provisions in an executive order and accompanying DHS guidance that make sweeping changes to immigration enforcement in the U.S. interior, including broadening the categories of unauthorized immigrants who are priorities for removal.

ARTICLE: The Obama Record on Deportations: Deporter in Chief or Not?
President Obama faced criticism over his administration's handling of immigration enforcement, labeled "deporter in chief" even as he was also accused of lax enforcement. A closer examination of his administration's record paints a more nuanced picture.

REPORT: Deportation and Discretion: Reviewing the Record and Options for Change
This report analyzes the 3.7 million formal removals that occurred between fiscal 2003-13, offering a profile of deportees, including countries of origin and criminal convictions.

REPORT: Delegation and Divergence: 287(g) State and Local Immigration Enforcement
In assessing the implementation, enforcement outcomes, costs, and community impacts of the 287(g) federal-state immigration enforcement program, the report finds that about half of 287(g) activity involves noncitizens arrested for misdemeanors and traffic offenses.

COMMENTARY: Millions Will Feel Chilling Effects of U.S. Public-Charge Rule That Is Also Likely to Reshape Legal Immigration
The public-charge rule issued by the Trump administration in August 2019 will have profound effects on future immigration and on use of public benefits by millions of legal noncitizens and their U.S.-citizen family members, as this commentary explains.

ARTICLE: “Merit-Based” Immigration: Trump Proposal Would Dramatically Revamp Immigrant Selection Criteria, But with Modest Effects on Numbers
The Trump administration’s plan to create a "merit-based" U.S. immigration system, lessening the longstanding focus on family reunification in favor of more economic migrants, has met with a lackluster response from Democrats and Republicans alike. This article explores how the proposal would reshape immigration to the United States.

POLICY BRIEF: Gauging the Impact of DHS’ Proposed Public-Charge Rule on U.S. Immigration
Most recent U.S. legal permanent residents could have found themselves at risk of green-card denial, this analysis shows, had they been assessed under a proposed Trump administration public-charge rule that would apply a significantly expanded test to determine likelihood of future public-benefits use.

ARTICLE: Even as Congress Remains on Sidelines, the Trump Administration Slows Legal Immigration
While much attention has focused on President Trump's efforts to crack down on illegal immigration, the administration has moved, via a much wider scope of actions, to reduce legal immigration to the United States. This article explores these changes.

COMMENTARY: A Path to Citizenship for 1.8 Million DREAMERs? Despite Talk, No Proposal Would Do So
Even as the 1.8 million number swirls in the discussion of how many DREAMers would be placed on a path to citizenship, proposals debated in the Senate would have resulted in the legalization of smaller numbers, as this commentary explains.

COMMENTARY: Legalization for DREAMers: A Realistic Appraisal of Potential Chain Migration
Amid growing calls for Congress to pass DREAM Act-type legislation, critics are arguing that legalization would spur vast new "chain migration" because DREAMers could eventually sponsor their relatives for green cards. MPI estimates the numbers who could receive legal permanent residence as a result of sponsorship by DREAMers would be far lower, for a range of reasons explained in this commentary.

COMMENTARY: The RAISE Act: Dramatic Change to Family Immigration, Less So for the Employment-Based System
The RAISE Act endorsed by President Trump would have dramatic effects on family-based immigration to the United States, with disproportionate effects for immigrants from several countries in particular. While much focus has been given to the sponsors' pledge of "merit-based" immigration, the effects on the U.S. employment-based immigration system would be more modest in terms of outcomes, as this commentary explores.

COMMENTARY: Leaked Draft of Possible Trump Executive Order on Public Benefits Would Spell Chilling Effects for Legal Immigrants
A draft executive order apparently under consideration by the Trump administration could have widespread chilling effects for legal immigrants. It proposes restricting green cards for low-income immigrants and making legal permanent residents more vulnerable to deportation if they use federal means-tested public benefits.

INTERACTIVE MAPS: U.S. Immigration Population by State and County and Metropolitan Area
Interested in where immigrants live in the U.S.? These maps display the distribution of immigrant populations by state and county, as well as metro area.

INTERACTIVE MAP: Refugee Admissions by Year and Ceiling
Use this map to see how many refugees have been admitted by year since 1980, as well as how the admissions ceiling has varied over time.

INTERACTIVE TOOL: Modeling Potential U.S. Legal Immigration Cuts
Use this tool to explore how potential changes to U.S. legal immigration policy would affect immigration from top sending countries.

DATA: Unauthorized Immigrant Population Profiles
Learn about the estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. Where do they live? When did they arrive, and from where? What are their incomes and health care coverage? This tool provides detailed profiles for the United States, most states, and counties with the largest unauthorized populations.

INTERACTIVE MAP: Unauthorized Immigrant Populations in United States by Region or Country of Origin
This map shows the top states and counties of residence for unauthorized immigrants in the United States based on their country or region of origin.