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October 2017 Update on Changes to U.S. Immigration Policies Under the Trump Administration and Latest Travel Ban News

October 19, 2017

The Trump administration proposes to make sweeping changes to U.S. immigration policies.

On October 8, 2017, the White House issued an Immigration Principles and Policies Statement, which was followed by separate supporting statements from the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Justice.

The statement focused on changes to border security, unaccompanied alien children, asylum reform, swift border return, the expansion of the definition of inadmissible aliens to the United States, interior enforcement, immigration authority, partnerships with states and localities, visa overstays and a merit-based immigration system.

Here are some key points from the statement:

Border Wall
The statement advocated that a southern border wall should be constructed to protect the United States, as it presents a clear threat to national security and public safety.

Asylum
Other issues addressed in the statement included the removing of protections of unaccompanied children who flee for safety to the United States previously extended to them in a trafficking law enacted in 2008. Asylum reform and the massive asylum backlog noted by the U.S. government has prompted the government to advocate for a full review of all asylee or refugee seekers, and closing for them the opportunity for a safe haven in the United States. In an unprecedented move, the statement promotes criminalizing visa overstays, which accounts for roughly 40 percent of all illegal immigration.

Sanctuary Cities
The statement puts pressure on sanctuary cities to follow the new immigration guidelines or else they may lose vital federal funding.

Family-Based Immigration
A severe limitation on family-based immigration through the elimination and termination of extended family chain migration through the family-based green card process was also proposed, thus limiting family-based residence cases only to the spouse and minor children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. The statement follows the lead of the RAISE Act in eliminating the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, and further limiting the number of refugees to prevent abuse of the refugee admissions system.

Dreamers
In a separate development, the White House has proposed to support a bill granting the young undocumented immigrants known as "Dreamers" a path to residence in exchange for the principles and policies enumerated above. Last month, the president abruptly ended an Obama-era policy called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in which former President Barack Obama had used his executive authority to protect about 800,000 of the young immigrants from the threat of deportation and provide them work permits.

Travel Ban Update
On October 17, a Hawaii federal judge blocked the Trump administration's revised travel ban one day before it was set to take effect. Judge Derrick Watson said the travel ban - President Trump's third version of the policy - "plainly discriminates based on nationality."

On October 18, U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang of Maryland halted most of the president's travel ban attempt, issuing a preliminary injunction against restrictions for the same six countries, with the exception of people who "lack a credible claim" of a bona fide relationship with someone or an entity in the United States. Under both rulings, North Korea and Venezuela are still subject to travel limits.

These rulings illustrates that the legal challenges on the travel ban are far from over. We will continue to advise and report on developments in this area.

In Conclusion
This Principles and Policies Statement has been met with opposition by the American Immigration Lawyers Association and many throughout the American legal community. The immigration agenda is a top priority for the Trump administration, and it has aggressively been moving forward its priorities with the hope for legislative reform. The Principles and Policies Statement is a further attempt to realign our immigration system and remove the undocumented and criminal element.

Our Immigration practice group will continue to monitor and report on developments in this area.

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