E.g., 06/05/2020
E.g., 06/05/2020

U.S. Immigration Policy under Trump: Deep Changes and Lasting Impacts

July 2018

U.S. Immigration Policy under Trump: Deep Changes and Lasting Impacts

U.S. immigration policy has undergone a sea change since the inauguration of Donald Trump in January 2017. Although his public statements have largely focused on a few major objectives toward which he has made only limited headway—such as building a wall along the entirety of the U.S.-Mexico border—the administration has taken other steps to redefine U.S. immigration policies that are less visible but no less important.

This report examines the wide range of changes the Trump administration has set in motion, from enhanced enforcement measures and new application vetting requirements, to cuts in refugee admissions and the scaling back of temporary protections for some noncitizens.

Despite the attention Trump has dedicated to immigration matters, this analysis finds that the fragmented nature of the U.S. political system has made it difficult for his administration to pursue some of its most ambitious aims. Congress has thus far shown little inclination to pass major immigration legislation, and the courts have halted or slowed key initiatives, including early iterations of the travel ban and the separation of families as part of a “zero-tolerance” border policy. States and localities have also taken divergent approaches to local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities, with some passing laws to curtail coordination and others to facilitate it. Still, through incremental changes and presidential discretion, the administration may in the long term be able to significantly redefine who comes to the country and who is removed from it.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. What Has Changed

A. Enhancing Immigration Enforcement

B. Cutting Back on Humanitarian Programs

C. Increasing Vetting and Obstacles for Legal Immigration

D. Ending DACA

III. The Impact of Expectations and Anxiety

IV. Congressional Inaction and Resistance

V. Pushback from Local and State Governments

VI. The Role of the Courts

VII. Conclusion