As with the previous two years of the Trump administration, 2019 was a tough year for immigration advocates. Between news of ICE raids across major United States cities, deplorable conditions at detention facilities on the border, and a number of large-scale policy battles, immigrants in this country could really use a break.
This year saw the presentation of the controversial “public charge” rule, which tries to make the acceptance of any kind of public aid a disqualifying factor in immigration applications. As a result, many immigrants who are hoping to apply for permanent residency started being afraid to use public benefits they are entitled to. Thankfully, three federal courts (New York, California, and Washington) have issued temporary injunctions to block these changes from taking effect for adjustment of status applicants. The Consulates have already made several changes to their policies and procedures relating to public charge for those seeking immigrant visas.
The single biggest immigration issue being decided right now is the future of the DACA program, which has 700,000 participants. After the president attempted to shut down the program and was stopped by three separate federal appeals courts, the issue now sits with the Supreme Court. A decision is likely to come by the springtime.
As we discussed in one of our recent newsletters, some immigration advocates have been surprised to see that the conservative arm of the court seems skeptical of the DACA program. If the court is split on the decision, some are projecting that the decision will ultimately hang on Chief Justice Roberts. In his Supreme Court career, Roberts has made decisions on both sides of the isle, but overall seems to lean Republican.
Where are we headed?
In our opinion, it all comes down to the presidential election next year. It is hard to believe we have been under the Trump administration for almost 3 years now.
If we manage to elect a Democratic president, we can expect a return to the more reasonable immigration policies of the Obama era. Though the candidates differ on some finer points of immigration policy, they are mostly in agreement — any of them would defend the rights of legal and illegal immigrants to a sufficient extent.
A Democratic candidate would also be very good news for the DREAMers, because even if the Supreme Court votes against the continuation of the DACA program early next year, a Democratic president can likely introduce alternative means for existing program participants to remain in the United States.
If President Trump is reelected, we can expect a continuation of the administration’s current policies and continued attack against immigrants. Typically, a president’s second term is used to push through less popular legislation, because he or she will not be up for reelection again.
With that in mind, what is some advice for immigrants who have to file applications soon?
When dealing with this amount of uncertainty, it is almost always best to speak to a qualified immigration attorney and file your application now, when you know what circumstances you are dealing with, rather than waiting for an uncertain future, in which things might in fact get worse.
If you have a question about your particular legal situation as it relates to these current events, please reach out to us to schedule a consultation!