President Trump made immigration a central plank of his 2016 presidential campaign -- including his promise to build a wall at the southern border. Now, as the 2020 election approaches, his campaign is highlighting what he has achieved so far as it keeps immigration center stage and is promising to keep it going in a second term.
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“President Trump has enforced immigration laws to protect American communities and American jobs,” the Trump campaign website says.
The campaign, along with the Republican National Committee -- which has not put forward a formal campaign platform this year -- has issued few new promises about what Trump would do on immigration, it has instead focused on what Trump has delivered on his 2016 agenda in his first term.
Trump and his administration have continually touted his building of a wall at the southern border, despite a number of legal and financial hurdles that the project has faced.
So far, the administration has built nearly 300 miles of border wall system, most of it replacing structures already there. While critics say that it, therefore, doesn’t count as a “new wall,” administration officials have argued that the new 18-foot high steel bollards, complete with surveillance and anti-climb systems, are radically different from the old landing-mat style structures it replaced.
"You don't hear about the wall anymore because we won,” Trump said in remarks at the wall earlier this month.
Trump has promised 400 miles by the end of the year, and would likely see to continue further construction throughout his second term.
Trump has taken a number of measures to crack down on illegal immigration. He has sought to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) -- the 2012 executive order by President Barack Obama that granted protection to certain illegal immigrants brought to the country as children.
The Supreme Court rejected the Trump administration’s efforts to end the program, saying it was done “in an "arbitrary and capricious" manner although they did not rule on the merits of the program itself. Since then the administration is not accepting new DACA applications and limiting renewals to a year and is considering the future of the program.
But Trump has repeatedly called for a comprehensive immigration deal that would include permanent protections for DACA recipients, border security, and changes to forms of legal immigration.
“We’re going to work with a lot of people on DACA, and we’re also working on an immigration bill, a merit-based system, which is what I’ve wanted for a long time,” Trump said in July.
A second Trump term would almost certainly see a continued crackdown on sanctuary cities, jurisdictions in which local law enforcement are not allowed to cooperate with federal immigration officials.
Trump and members of his administration have decried such laws as dangerous, allowing criminals to be released back into communities rather than deported. Trump is likely to accelerate efforts to bar sanctuary jurisdictions from receiving certain federal grants.
Agreements with southern neighbors
Trump’s administration made a number of agreements with southern neighbors. The most striking was the expansion of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) -- known as the Remain-in-Mexico policy, which kept migrants in Mexico as they awaited their hearings
While Democrats have called for the program to be ended, arguing it leaves migrants in dangerous situations, the Trump administration has tagged it as a key program for bringing down numbers at the border -- by ending incentives for people to make the perilous journey north.
Additionally, Asylum Cooperative Agreements (ACA’s) with Northern Triangle countries -- Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador -- that allows asylum seekers to be sent there for asylum claims, are likely to be continued and expanded on in a second Trump term.
President Trump has sought to make a clear distinction between legal immigration and illegal immigration -- but at the same time has called for the legal immigration system work for American workers.
He touted his pro-legal immigration credentials on Tuesday evening when he took part in a naturalization ceremony for five new Americans.
"You followed the rules, you obeyed the laws, you learned our history, embraced our values, and proved yourselves to be men and women of the highest integrity," Trump said during the ceremony. "It's not so easy. You went through a lot. And we appreciate you being here with us today."
But in June he increased restrictions on temporary work visas in response to the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus crisis. He paused new H-1B tech worker visas, H-2B seasonal worker visas, certain J work and education exchange visitor visas and L executive transfer visas. It will be in effect until the end of the year.
Should Trump be reelected, it remains to be seen if he would extend those limitations, modify them, or abandon them.
Trump’s administration also published a new “public charge rule” last year that restricts green cards to immigrants deemed likely to be reliant on welfare. That rule has been hampered by a series of ongoing legal challenges -- but the administration would likely seek to forge forward with that if Trump wins in November.