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Looking Ahead to 2020 in Immigration

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When people look into the crystal ball to see the future of immigration in 2020, they don’t see anything pretty. The president has found that his core constituency responds well to anti-immigrant rhetoric, and immigration is an arena in which he has been able to affect change—all of it restrictive. Many regulatory changes and executive actions have been tied up in courts, so they haven’t all gone into effect or remained in effect, but they have clearly signaled a desire to make it harder for immigrants to come to the United States, no matter how many studies show the positive effects of immigration. It’s likely that he’ll make a few more changes that will be constitutionally dubious but effective at signaling to his base that he hears them and their fears about foreigners.

Late last week, Tania Karas and Monica Campbell of PRI’s “The World” inventoried the top 10 immigration issues of 2020. They ask: 

  • - "How will immigration play out on the campaign trail?" - We’ve tried to avoid overtly political positions and the horse race analyses that accompany the presidential campaign, but since Trump proposed his oft-promised wall as a way of keeping Mexicans and Central Americans from entering the United States, there’s no reason to think he won’t return to the anti-outsider rhetoric.
  • - "Is this the end of asylum at the southern U.S. border?" - Karas and Campbell’s phrasing is dramatic, but the administration’s efforts to make the pursuit of asylum at the southern border certainly make it look as if it would zero out the number of successful asylum seekers, not through dishonest denial but by constructing a series of obstructions so onerous that asylum seekers would sooner give up than face them.
  • - "Will the 'Remain in Mexico' policy last?" - The strategy to reduce asylum counts heavily on Mexico to filter out many of the asylum seekers and temporarily house the others. It will be interesting to see what the courts say about the policy, and if the Mexican government comes to think twice about it. 
  • - "How will the U.S. handle an increase in Mexican migration?" - One reason Mexico may rethink some of its policies is that the country is no longer simply the threshold country people pass through en route to the United States. More of its people are seeking asylum because the tent cities of asylum seekers have attracted gangs and predators that have made life in Mexico more dangerous.
  • - "Will U.S. refugee resettlement shrink even more?" 
  • - "Will DACA survive?" - We have tracked this story as it moves through the courts and will continue to do so and considered individual solutions. After the case was heard by the Supreme Court, court watchers speculated about how it would rule, but we won’t know until later this spring.
  • - "Will Trump manage to build any more of his border wall?" - Since a court injunction stopped his efforts to sidetrack money earmarked for the military to build more wall, the short answer is likely no, but since the wall is the campaign promise Trump really didn’t keep, it’s hard to believe he won’t try.
  • - "Will citizenship delays affect people’s ability to vote in November?"
  • - "How else might the Trump administration cut legal immigration?"

At, executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy Stuart Anderson foresees avenues to immigration narrowing as well. His focus is on work-related changes:

  • - “Employers should expect denials of H-1B petitions, particularly for companies that serve customers at third-party sites, to continue at or near the high rates seen during the first three years of the Trump administration.” - Anderson also points to planned regulation changes for the L-1 visa that is used to transfer employees into the U.S. from abroad that will make that visa harder to get. 
  • - Will the per-country bill become law? - We covered the dangerous “Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrant Act of 2019” here and here last week and explained what the problems are. The Senate version of the bill has been blocked, and amendments have been proposed that give the Department of Labor greater oversight and add restrictions to H-1B visas. It remains to be seen if they'll loosen the logjam.
  • - “If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the administration [on DACA], then talk of a legislative compromise will increase. However, the closer it gets to the November 2020 presidential election, the less likely a deal may become.” - We’ve talked about DACA here, and what Dreamers can do while they wait for their status to be clarified. Trump took the Dreamers hostage in an effort to leverage concessions on wall funding, and they became the hostages he was stuck with when the Democrats called his bluff. If the Supreme Court doesn't give him a way out of the situation he created, Trump will be forced to choose between the hostile-to-immigration wing of his base and the rest of the American people, who have consistently been in favor of accommodating Dreamers.
  • - “New enrollment of international students fell by more than 10% between the 2015-16 and 2018-2019 academic years. That has not discouraged the Trump administration from proposing additional international student restrictions.” - We have covered his efforts to make it more complicated for international students to remain in status.
  • - “In September 2019, the Trump administration announced a historically low annual refugee admission ceiling of 18,000 for FY 2020, a reduction of 84 percent from the 110,000-limit set during the last year of the Obama administration…. There is no reason to anticipate the administration will raise the refugee ceiling for FY 2021.”
  • - "How will the courts rule on efforts to use “public charge” and a lack of health insurance to limit immigration?" - We wrote extensively about “public charge” and how the proposed change is more pernicious than it seems.
  • - "How will the courts rule on the the Trump administration’s attempts to rescind TPS?"
  • - “‘Investigators with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement opened about four times the number of workplace investigations in the year ended Sept. 30 compared with the close of the Obama administration,’ reported the Wall Street Journal. That trend is likely to continue in 2020.” 
  • - “Individuals applying for citizenship and other immigration benefits, and immigrant investors in the employment-based fifth preference (EB-5) category can expect to pay more in 2020.” - We covered one effortto raise fees and won’t be surprised if there are more.
  • - “Donald Trump is determined to build as much of a “wall” as possible before the November 2020 election. Anticipate stepped-up seizures of private land and fights with judges and environmental groups.”

We’ll continue to monitor developments in these areas as a function of our practice and our desire to help get good information into the public discourse, and we hope you’ll help fight rumors, half-truths and outright lies. The immigration conversations are hard enough without having them bogged down by misinformation on either side. And in this climate, those who are looking to change their immigration status need an experienced immigration lawyer more than ever.      


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