How will Trump’s election impact your immigration options?

Wednesday morning, I woke up to my worst nightmare. Donald Trump is now President-Elect:  a demagogue who campaigned based on racist attacks on Muslims and Latino immigrants, who called for mass deportations, and who pledged to build a wall along the length of the Mexican border with the U.S.

“How can this man be our next President?” I asked myself. I was devastated and, frankly, stunned. I still am. I don’t understand why so many people supported him and I am incredibly sad about what this says about the state of country right now. I am personally offended that he will be the leader of the United States for the next four years and I believe it sends a terrible message to the rest of the world about what America stands for.

But there is work to be done. Today I’m writing you to tell you that my team and I are here for you. The immigration community may have taken a big hit yesterday, but today, as your immigration attorneys, we must get back up, shake it off, and get to work. We are going to fight for you and your families, and we plan to fight with everything we’ve got. We are with you during this dark time and we are here for you.

Right now I’m sure you’re scared and I know you have a lot of questions about what’s to come. A lot of you have already reached out to contact me. Please know that my team and I want to make ourselves available to each of you on an individual basis during this horrible time. We have been inundated with calls and emails from people who are scared so please have patience with us as we address each of your concerns. We are here for you and are working to answer each of your questions as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Unfortunately, we can only speculate about what Trump’s immigration policies will actually be right now. But based on his campaign promises and looking at who controls Congress, here are some of my thoughts.

Will there be comprehensive immigration reform in the next four years?

We don’t foresee comprehensive immigration reform during Trump’s presidency. It’s possible that there may be some selective changes to immigration laws to restrict or strip away the rights of immigrants. Although Democrats will vehemently oppose any proposed negative changes to immigration laws, Republicans now have control of the House and the Senate, as well as the White House.

What will happen to the DACA program?

Trump will likely scrap the DACA program. This would invalidate work permits and remove protection from deportation of those with DACA.

When will President Trump end the DACA?

We anticipate that Trump will kill the DACA program soon after he becomes President in January of 2017.

Trump will have the power to kill the DACA program quickly because it was created by President Obama via executive action in response to Congress’ inaction on comprehensive immigration reform. It created a type of deferred action, which is not an immigration status, and is more a formalized version of an immigration enforcement priority. Because this program was created via executive action by one president, it can be taken away via the executive powers of a different president.

Would President Trump round up and deport people who currently have DACA?

Unfortunately, after Trump becomes president, the information that DACA applicants provided to immigration on their application forms, including addresses and biographic information, will be in the hands of immigration officials who will have different immigration enforcement priorities than they did under the Obama administration. But it is unclear whether they will use this information to identify and deport DACA recipients.

We sincerely hope that there is/would be enough public outcry and enough positive advocacy to counter this possibility.

Should LGBTQI individuals be worried? Will he be able to take away same-sex marriage?

Though Mike Pence, the future vice president, has terrible, homophobic views, it is unclear whether that Trump would push them forward in the realm of immigration policy. There has been such widespread popular support for same-sex marriage in the last few years that it seems like it would not be a top priority for Trump.

We will need to keep a close eye on who Trump nominates to become a Supreme Court justice and what that person’s views are, though. Right now, how the breakdown on the Supreme Court about how they view the question of same-sex marriage would not be changed if a conservative justice were to take Scalia’s place. But if more justices were to retire and/or pass away, this could change the balance.

Would Trump really expand detention programs?

We expect that a Trump administration would focus heavily on expanded immigration enforcement measures. This could include detaining all immigrants captured after illegally entering the country.

To do this, Trump would need more money from Congress to fund additional detention centers. This funding would take time to put this in place.

Would Trump be able to deport all people in the U.S. who don’t have any immigration status?

I know people without status are very worried right now. It’s important to remember that it would take an enormous amount of money, resources, and manpower to start trying to deport all of the people in the United States who don’t have any immigration status. It is so expensive and so difficult that most immigration advocates believe it is impossible to accomplish.

What we think is more likely is that he will change the immigration enforcement priorities. In 2014, a memorandum was published that announced the enforcement priorities that are currently in place. This was not a law, it was a memo. It can therefore be changed and we expect that Trump will make changes to these priorities. Unfortunately, we don’t know exactly what those changes will look like yet.

What will happen to the I-601A program?

The I-601A, Provisional Waiver of Unlawful Presence, is a program that is laid out in current immigration regulations. If Trump wants to change this program or eliminate it, he will need to propose a new regulation, have that regulation go through a period of public comment, make adjustments to the regulation, and then have the final version published. This all takes time and effort, but it is possible that he could eliminate this program.

Would Trump be able to end birthright citizenship?

This is not happening! The vast majority of legal scholars think it would take a constitutional amendment to accomplish this. It has been a part of the fabric of U.S. nationality law for so long and is so ingrained in our system that it seems incredibly unlikely that this would change in the next four years, if ever.

Final Message about Trump and Immigration

For those of you whose cases my team and I are already working on, we anticipate that we’ll be able to finish your cases before any large-scale changes come to pass. Right now the most important thing for us to do is to continue working together to submit and/or finish your case. The most helpful thing to do at this point will be to make every effort to obtain the documents and information we ask you for so that we can create the strongest case possible on your behalf.

I know that you will have doubts and fears and questions that I can’t fully address right now because of the uncertainty surrounding what will happen after Trump becomes president. But, don’t give up hope. I want you to know that my team and I will be fighting on each of your behalf.

Please also have faith that there are many many organizations across this country that are dedicated to fighting for positive immigration policies and great people at those organizations who will be working in overdrive for the next four years. You are not alone and there are a lot of people out there who will be dedicating their personal and professional energy to protecting your rights.

With you in this fight,