Policies and Developments Affecting US Immigrants in 2020

American flag background representing that the country is closed to immigrnats
Many US immigrants worry policies and developments could exclude them

Ever since the election of Trump, the administration has introduced a series of policies and developments affecting US immigrants. As well as affecting any refugees or foreign citizens hoping to move to the United States, these measures could have a severe impact on immigrants already in the country.

With the upcoming elections and the battle between Democrats and Republicans, the lives of many US immigrants are becoming increasingly precarious.

Even the Democrat candidate Joe Biden mentioned that, if he wins the presidency, he’ll make sure undocumented immigrants learn English. Although it’s important immigrants pay their taxes and comply with laws, should it be the government’s priority to force people to learn English and assimilate? Those of immigrant descent have become pawns in a political game.

As the political climate becomes tenser, it’s important to inform yourself of what is happening and any possible changes. In this article, we’ll cover:

  • Migrant Protection Protocol
  • US-Guatemala Asylum Cooperative Agreement
  • Changes in fees and funding
  • Public charge policy
  • The collection of migrant DNA
  • The future of DACA
  • Impact of the upcoming electios

Important USCIS Changes

This year, the President promised to deliver on mandates he set out last year. As a result, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has implemented some important changes, and more developments are on the horizon.

We’ll cover four pertinent issues that could affect all US immigrant: the Migrant Protection Protocol; the US-Guatemala Asylum Cooperative Agreement; increases in visa fees, and the public charge policy.

Photograph of a U.S. Department of Homeland Security logo.
USCIS plays a huge role in the lives of immigrants and refugees

Migrant Protection Protocol

President Trump has spoken extensively on the topic of political asylum. Specifically, he’s discussed whether refugees should be able to enter the country, work, and bring family members over.

In 2019, Trump introduced policies that denied asylum to anyone entering the US via the southern border with Mexico. The Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP) gave asylum seekers just one option: to stay in Mexico while the US processes their requests.

He aimed to make requirements for asylum stricter to stop “frivolous” claims. Realistically, the policy means most people won’t be able to enter the country. Migrants must be able to prove they’re genuinely in need, but this is a difficult ask. For instance, those fleeing abusive partners or gang crime fall into the category of frivolous claims.

When rejected, most migrants must return to their countries of origin: the very places they fled from because of the political instability and lack of opportunity there. It seems the American dream doesn’t apply to asylum seekers from Latin American countries, leaving a bitter taste in the mouth for many already here.

In contrast, Mexico is well-known for being a migrant-friendly country. On the other side of the border, the country will most likely continue to support migrants as they wait for the US to approve or deny their requests. 

But the support of Mexico alone isn’t enough. Violence against these asylum seekers is a sad reality of daily life. Thanks to the success of the protocol, damage to the US is minimized – only 117 migrants have actually been granted asylum since its implementation.

Recent developments in the Migrant Protection Protocol

Although the court hasn’t yet approved Trump’s proposals for asylum seekers, they’re being carried out in full force in the meantime. The futures of thousands of migrants continue to come down to pure luck – or, rather, miracles. Around 65,000 migrants – mostly Central Americans – are waiting for a response to their asylum requests in Mexico while enduring terrible conditions and a long wait. 

If the Californian court rejects MPP, the federal government could still appeal to the Supreme Court of Justice, so asylum seekers have a long struggle ahead of them.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the situation has worsened. Trump closed the Mexico/US border and suspended court hearings – plunging migrants into further danger as Mexico struggles with Coronavirus.

On 17 July 2020, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice announced their plans to restart MPP hearings when public health criteria make it possible. 

Infographic explaining the Migrant Protection Protocol
Despite the name, the MPP won’t help many migrants

Changes to fees and funding for migrants

The current administration has reduced the refugee cap to just 18,000 for 2020, compared to a threshold of 110,000 under Obama. Plus, most of those slots are reserved for those fleeing from Iraq and Central America – refugees from unexpected crises may be left in the dark. 

Refugee agencies are also suffering – the government only gives out federal funds to these agencies when refugees arrive. Now far less migrants are coming, many offices are laying off staff or closing altogether.

Fees are also likely to rise. Trump wants to increase the cost of citizenship through naturalization by 83%, from $640 to $1,170. The government also wants to charge asylum seekers $50 to submit an application, which would make it one of only four countries to have this policy

Another fee set to rise is the Form I-765 for employment authorization, which will increase to $490. For those who want to remove the conditions on their permanent resident through marriage using Form I-751, the cost will rise to $760. 

Further USCIS increases are likely, which is bad news for any settled US immigrants hoping to obtain full citizenship.

Photo fo the USCIS office from outside
USCIS is a feared organization for many migrants

US-Guatemala Asylum Cooperative Agreement

Another important development for immigrants is the US-Guatemala Asylum Cooperative Agreement. This policy allows the US to expel non-Guatemalan asylum seekers to the Central American country. As well as those from Honduras or El Salvador, anyone of Mexican origin could also be sent to Guatemala.

Guatemala is part of the so-called “Northern Triangle of Central America“, along with Honduras and El Salvador. The area suffers from extreme violence that asylum seekers are fleeing from. According to World Bank reports,  the murder rate in Guatemala is five times that of the United States. 

Therefore, it could be considered unethical and dangerous to send refugees back to the area they fled from in the first place. Another issue is that Guatemala lacks the funds to carry out such an important program.

The reaction of the Mexican government

The Mexican government is displeased with the arrangement, especially as Guatemala is currently experiencing political and economic difficulties.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard pointed out that around 900 asylum seekers could be seriously affected by the new measures and that the Mexican government would look for a better solution to protect its people.

Last summer, Trump threatened Mexico and other Central American countries with increased tariffs if they didn’t sign the agreement. Although the Mexican government wasn’t intimidated, the Guatemalan government signed an agreement to avoid economic and diplomatic problems. Honduras and El Salvador also signed.

Since Trump demanded that Mexico do more to reduce the migratory flow, the numbers of asylum seekers have decreased. Meanwhile, the López Obrador government has relied on its National Guard to ensure illegal immigrants remain at the southern border with Guatemala.

Photo of the border between Mexico and the US
Borders may be lines in the sand, but they cause lots of problems

Public charge against immigrants

One of the greatest controversies of recent times is Trump’s creation of a new “wealth rule.”  The aim is to stop the flow of low-income immigrants who could end up being a public burden.

Congress created the Public Charge in 1882 to prevent anyone entering the US who could be a public charge – but they never defined any criteria. This has begun to change under Trump, who has tried to reduce the number of green cards and visas given to anyone who could use public benefits in the future.

At first, his attempts to create a new wealth rule last August were futile, with federal judges blocking the measure and lawsuits taken against it. Then, the President asked the Supreme Court to intervene. Because of the conservative majority in the court, the rule went through.
One pro-immigration lawyer, James Johnson, said the measure was an attack on the values ​​of New York City, a cosmopolitan city that welcomes the inhabitants of the world with open arms.

Migrant DNA in FBI databases

On January 6, the Department of Homeland security announced the launch of an experimental program to collect DNA samples from certain immigrants, including those in custody. The aim is to create a database of criminal profiles for the FBI.

If the plan goes ahead, the Border Patrol will collect DNA samples from targeted zones, such as Canadian border points in Detroit, Eagle Pass in Texas, and the border with Mexico. 

Defenders of migrant rights are in opposition to the proposal since it requires taking very delicate information by force – and immigrants aren’t in a position to refuse.

Regardless, the government intends to carry out a pilot program.

Someone taking a DNA swab of a man's mouth
The new policy is a human rights violation

Pilot program

US Customs and Border Control (CBP) claims the pilot programs would last 90 days and take samples from people between 14 and 79 years old at the Detroit border and Eagle Pass.

This program will involve five phases. First, DNA will be collected only from migrants with a criminal record and green card holders or US citizens referred for prosecution (mostly for crossing the border without authorization).

In later phases, the CBP will increase the number of officers, border sectors, and ports of entry collecting DNA samples. By the final stage, the scope of such measures could broaden further. 

So far, the program isn’t taking samples of people with mental disabilities or those who came to the country for medical care. Certain migrants under the protection of ICE are also exempt since they already had to pass through CBP and have a DNA sample taken.

The measure eliminates limitations established in 2010 by the former secretary of national security Janet Napolitano, who made an agreement with Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to only take samples of detainees with criminal charges or charged for removal.

In the long run, the aim is to use the information to carry out investigations. The administration says there’s no possibility that the data will form part of research. However, migrant advocates fear the information collected will be used for other purposes and that migrants are unaware of the program’s aims.

Infographic about the collection of DNA samples from immigrants
Many immigrants are worried about where all this will end

The future of DACA

This year, immigrants have faced many changes. Deferred deportation, long waits for employment authorization, asylum seekers – and that’s just the start. The overall aim appears to be lowering the number of immigrants, especially those of Hispanic origin.

One of the most worrying developments has been the dismantling of DACA.

Protests against anti-immigration policy
Getting rid of DACA would ruin many immigrants’ lives

The history of DACA

Barack Obama first implemented the  Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) scheme in 2012. 

Beneficiaries had to meet certain requirements:

  • Aged between 15 and 30
  • Arrived in the US aged less than 16
  • Residing in the country for at least 5 years
  • Studying at or graduated from high school
  • In possession of a GED, or a veteran of the Armed Forces or Coast Guard
  • Not in possession of a criminal record for serious crimes

The aim was to protect the 700,000 young people who face deportation because their parents arrived in the US illegally. This allowed them to request deferred action on their status and receive work authorization.

There are currently about 250,000 children born in the United States eligible for DACA. Around 72,600 of them reside in California. These children haven’t committed any crimes and many of them aren’t even familiar with the home countries of their parents.

The destruction of DACA

In November, the Trump administration attempted to eliminate DACA completely. Trump announced his plans to cancel DACA in September 2017. Since then, those in favor of DACA have been fighting for its survival.  

The cancelation of DACA would be a serious human rights violation. For instance, many children who stand to benefit suffer from health problems that can’t be treated outside of the US.

A group of pediatric doctors, child development experts, and children’s advocates filed a statement in court asking judges to account for the mental health and well-being of the child beneficiaries. 

In June 2020, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) won their court case against the US government for dismantling DACA, with the Supreme Court of the United States ruling in their favor.

Although Trump still wants to phase out the program, it seems it will be continuing for now. Latino immigrants can’t completely relax yet, but the situation looks promising.

Meanwhile, vulnerable immigrants and children must wait with uncertainty and anxiety until the issue is resolved.

Infographic about DACA
The future of DACA remains uncertain

The 2020 elections and the future of the US

In 2020, the United States will take to the polls and decide the future of the country.

Will we continue with the current anti-immigrant policy or take a radical turn? Those whose futures depend on the results await with bated breath.

The result of the election will shape future developments associated with DACA, the Migrant Protection Protocol, the collection of DNA from migrants, and more.

A less obvious consequence will be the perception the rest of the world has of the US.

NEW YORK, USA, JUN 17, 2020: Silhouette of republican candidate Donald Trump and democratic candidate Joe Biden. 2020 United States presidential election. US vote, Concept photo for November 3, 2020
Who will be the next president?

Global opinions of the US and Trump

In a recent study, the Pew Research Center found varied views regarding how the rest of the world sees the United States and its president. Of the 33 countries surveyed in 2019, most of them had good opinions about the United States but low confidence in Trump.

Trump inspires less confidence than Obama and other countries view him more negatively than most other world leaders thanks to his foreign policies. 

The most positive opinions about the United States come from Israel, the Philippines, Poland, South Korea, Ukraine, and Lithuania. In contrast, just 39% of German respondents and 20% of Turks have a positive impression of the  US.

Younger people have a greater tendency to view the United States positively. In Russia, 57% of 18-29 year olds gave positive comments about the US, while 15% of Russians interviewed above 50 thought the same. The results were similar for respondents in most other countries.

In general, Europeans and Latin Americans have the lowest opinions of Trump, while Asian countries see things differently. In the Philippines and Israel, 77% and 71% of people approve of Trump. Almost 50% of those interviewed in Kenya, Nigeria, India, and Poland also share confidence.

The study clearly shows the differences in opinion toward the president across the world.

Illustration representing a Global business network
The elections will affect how the world views the US

Bottom line

With so many upcoming policies and developments affecting US immigrants, many people in the country face an uncertain future.

During these times, it’s more important than ever to ensure you keep yourself informed about the latest developments. If you’re a business owner of Hispanic origin, the wisest thing you can do is ensure you and your business are following the correct rules and procedures.
If you need any help with your tax and legal obligations, get in contact. Call us on +1 (704) 243-6333, contact us through our website, or visit us directly at our office.

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