Expert Views: What will be the impact of Trump presidency on immigration, refugees?

November 11, 2016 9:46 AM EST

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) meets with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss transition plans in the White House Oval Office in Washington, U.S., November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque


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By Ellen Wulfhorst and Sebastien Malo

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The election of Republican Donald Trump to be the next U.S. president raises questions about the impact his administration could have upon immigrants in the United States and the nation's immigration and refugee policies.

During his campaign Trump took a hardline position, proposing to build a wall along the United States' border with Mexico and deport millions of undocumented immigrants.

He also said he opposes accepting refugees fleeing violence in Syria and that Muslims should be banned from entering the United States, a proposal he later reworded as a call for a limit on immigration from "terror-prone regions".

Here are some experts' views:

Jennifer Gordon, professor at Fordham Law School in New York and an expert on immigration policy:

"Trump campaigned on a promise to deport over 10 million undocumented immigrants. To carry this out would require staggering resources. But given his attacks on undocumented people, one thing seems near-certain: he will exercise his authority to cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that President Obama put in place to protect young undocumented immigrants. This will leave many hard-working undocumented teachers, housekeepers, lawyers, construction workers, students, health aides and doctors in a tremendously vulnerable position. Our country is richer in every way for their presence. We must fight with every tool at our disposal to defend the core American value of inclusion."

Lavinia Limon, president, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Washington:

"We encourage our new president to continue the tradition of the best of American values including equal protection and respect for every member of society. Worldwide, millions are denied basic human rights and we are strengthened as a country when all of humanity is recognized. America has always been the beacon of hope for the oppressed and this must continue.

"Throughout our history refugees and immigrants have been welcomed to America by presidents from both parties in war and in peace and the current global refugee crisis is no time to shrink from this leadership."

Gal Adam Spinrad, economic empowerment program coordinator, Refugee Women's Network Inc., Decatur, Georgia:

"The words immigrant, refugee, Muslim, walls and terrorism have ignited fear, hostility and division throughout the 2016 presidential election cycle.

"Refugees are scared right now. Their safety and future here feels more tenuous, and the messages they have heard throughout this election have in many cases revictimized and retraumatized them. They are concerned their missing family members won't be allowed to join them in America. They fear they will lose their green cards or be deported. Like their American counterparts, they worry about how they will get health insurance, whether they will be able to go to college, if their food stamps will be lowered, if they will lose the Social Security disability coverage they began receiving after an injury at one of the local chicken factories where many of them work.

"Our hope is that the incoming presidential administration - supported by the legislature on both sides of the aisle - will retain a spirit of inclusion that makes refugees feel not only welcome, but safe."

Doris Meissner, director of U.S. immigration policy program, Migration Policy Institute, Washington:

"The Trump administration can be expected to chart a very different course on immigration and refugee policy, as the candidate's views of immigration as a security and economic threat were central to his campaign. The most immediate changes are likely to be over refugee resettlement and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

"Mr. Trump has made clear his intent to end the resettlement of Syrian refugees, and it will be within the president's authority to set refugee allocations by country and overall. He also pledged to terminate the DACA program, which provides relief from deportation to more than 700,000 unauthorized immigrants whose parents brought them here as children. He has also pledged to increase deportations of unauthorized immigrants."

Stephen Yale-Loehr, professor of immigration law practice, Cornell Law School, Ithaca, New York:

"Donald Trump made immigration restrictions a big part of his campaign. Now we will see if he follows through on his immigration plans. Some actions, like reversing President Obama's executive actions that protect millions of young immigrants from deportation, can be done unilaterally. Others, like building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, will require Congress to change current law or spend billions of dollars.

"Although Republicans will control Congress for the next two years, it is always difficult to enact significant immigration changes because immigration is so complex and controversial. Moreover, some of his immigration changes could be challenged in court. President-elect Trump stated in his victory speech that he will be fair to everyone. Let's hope he keeps that promise to immigrants."

Jim DeMint, president, Heritage Foundation, and former U.S. Senator from South Carolina:

"Donald Trump campaigned on the promise to reverse the liberal policies of the Obama administration and pursue a largely conservative agenda, and securing our borders was his signature campaign issue. While pundits focused on 'the wall' and who would pay for it, his proposals were more comprehensive. For instance, people overstaying their visas account for 40 percent of the nation's illegal immigrant population. Trump pledged to address that problem by fixing the nation's entry-exit tracking system.

"As for refugees, President Obama announced plans to admit 110,000 refugees - 40,000 from the Middle East and South Asia regions - in fiscal year 2017. Trump's preferred plan is to establish 'safe havens' in Syria. He argues that this approach would safeguard ten times as many refugees as could be accommodated in this country."

Mark Krikorian, executive director, Center for Immigration Studies, Washington:

"A Trump administration will restart routine immigration enforcement. This is a major change from the Obama policy of ignoring most non-violent immigration offenders. This means more border fencing, penalizing crooked businesses and implementing a check-out system for foreign visitors to prevent overstays (the main source of new illegal immigration).

"Regarding legal immigration, refugee resettlement from the Middle East is likely to be suspended, pending a bottom-up review of the system. Foreign-worker programs will be modified so they can't be used to replace American workers, as now. And over the longer term, our legal immigration system is likely to be shifted from its emphasis on family ties to one that focuses on skills."

Marielena Hincapie, executive director, National Immigration Law Center, Los Angeles:

"The election of a candidate who staked his presidential bid on racist, xenophobic and misogynistic rhetoric has left our country more polarized than ever. President-elect Trump touted draconian changes to our immigration system, which should gravely concern everyone who cares about our values of fairness and equality.

"Many of Trump's immigration proposals don't square with our Constitution. Our communities have successfully beaten back similar ill-conceived proposals in states like Arizona and Alabama, and we will continue [to] fight - in the courtroom, if necessary - to ensure that the rights of immigrant and refugee communities are protected across the country."

David Bier, immigration policy analyst, Cato Institute, Washington:

"Donald Trump promised to limit the flow of Muslim refugees. Current law leaves refugee admissions up to presidential discretion, and he could accomplish this on Day One. Compared to a religious test, barring refugees from countries with large Muslim populations would be easy to enforce and, assuming no reallocation, could reduce refugee flows by 40 percent. This would exclude Christians, however, whom he promised to save, and that could lead to pushback from Congress.

"Trump may adopt one solution to which some Republicans have expressed openness: allowing Americans to sponsor their refugee family members. This could help Christian refugees while overcoming Trump's security objections for certain Muslims, since DNA could verify their U.S. connections and sponsors could receive thorough vetting."

(Reporting by Sebastien Malo and Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)



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