In the Age of Trump: Populist Backlash and Progressive Resistance Create Divergent State Immigrant Integration Contexts
After a campaign in which immigration played an unexpectedly important role, President Trump in his first year in office made good on many of his campaign promises to clamp down on U.S. immigration and refugee policies—pleasing his base but fanning controversy among others.
As long-simmering passions related to federal immigration and refugee 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. Their success in joining the mainstream of the country’s economic and civic life is arguably the most consequential—and most often overlooked—question in national immigration policy debates.
At the state level, hyperpoliticized debates regarding the rollback of Obama-era expansions in health insurance, potential imposition of new penalties for immigrants who use social services, impacts of cuts to local refugee resettlement programs, and other debates around key integration supports are unfolding. As state policymakers work through their positions on a range of contested issues, differences in contexts of state and local reception and support for immigrants are growing ever sharper.
These differences are manifesting in divergent state and local responses to law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities; health and social services; and K-12, adult, and postsecondary education—all of which are critical to the integration of immigrant and refugee families.
This report briefly examines how some of the key policies and programs that support the long-term integration success of immigrants and refugees are faring in this volatile era of immigration policy change, as well as key areas to watch ahead.
I. Effects on Key Local Policies and Service Systems
A. State and Local Law Enforcement
B. Refugee Resettlement
C. Elementary and Secondary Education
D. Higher Education
E. Health and Social Services
II. Looking Ahead
A. Further Diminuition and Destabilization of the Refugee Resettlement Program
B. Promulgation of an Executive Order on Public Benefits Use
C. A Pathway to Legal Status for DREAMers
D. Secondary Effects of Major Federal Tax and/or Health-Care Policy Changes