As it stands, current U.S. laws are not welcoming towards immigrants, at least not on the federal level. From a campaign focused on limiting immigration to three (failed) travel bans and his disparaging comments about Haiti, El Salvador and parts of Africa, President Donald Trump’s position on immigration is crystal clear. And while on the surface it seems as though the focus is on undocumented immigrants, a closer look shows how legal immigrants and those intending to immigrate to the U.S. have the cards stacked against them under this administration.
The president’s nickname might as well be “the Terminator,” as he is focused on ending various programs dedicated to protecting individuals from deportation. Trump’s desire to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has received the most media attention, with him calling the program “dead” as it currently stands — though bipartisan lawmakers are making efforts to protect DACA recipients.
The administration terminated Temporary Protected Status (TPS)— protection granted to those fleeing armed conflict, environmental disaster or other extraordinary, temporary conditions — for immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan. The program’s end could force nearly 200,000 Salvadorans to leave the country, Since the majority of these immigrants are active in the workforce, their departure would hit the U.S. economy hard.
While the H-1B visa program still exists, skilled foreign workers and their employers are in a bind, as vetting for potential candidates is now far more extreme and costly. Requests for evidence are more common — increasing processing time — and renewals are being denied, leaving many to choose between leaving the country or facing possible deportation by overstaying their visa. Even the president’s call for more “merit-based immigration” ignores the purpose of H-1B visas, as applicants’ petitions are for high-skilled positions that American workers cannot fill.
Rising costs are yet another hurdle immigrants face on their path to citizenship. The current filing fee for naturalization is $725, which is a high price for low-income immigrants to pay. That’s not to mention the thousands of dollars in legal fees many face to become citizens. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says it is committed to reducing processing times to more effectively spend the associated costs. However, application backlogs are rising once again, in part due to policy changes requiring more information submitted with applications.
Taking all of these factors into consideration, it’s understandable why analysts forecast legal immigration will be cut by up to 44 percent annually. It makes sense that the “Best Countries for Immigrants” list ranked the U.S. at number seven, falling behind Sweden, Canada, Switzerland, Australia, Germany and Norway. And it explains why thousands of skilled workers are taking their skillsets to Canada, where they are more welcomed.
The physical wall is not yet constructed, but the Trump administration is steadily building barriers to legal immigration. Given the economic boost immigrants bring to the U.S. alone, the federal government must focus on making the path to citizenship easier — and more welcoming — so the country can continue to thrive.