Not a Lexis+ subscriber? Try it out for free.

Immigration Law

Q & A: What Can President Trump Really Do About Immigration? (LexisNexis Expert Author Stephen Yale-Loehr)

Dianne Solís, Dallas Morning News, Nov. 10, 2016- "Stephen Yale-Loehr is an authority on U.S. immigration and asylum law and an adjunct professor at Cornell University Law School. He was a collaborator on the award-winning book Green Card Stories. Yale-Loehr answered our questions about changes in the complex U.S. immigration system as proposed by President-elect Donald Trump.

Q. How likely is it that a wall on our southern border would happen given that Trump said the Mexican government must pay for it?

     A. Trump will certainly propose building a wall, and will ask Mexico to pay for it. But assuming the Mexican government refuses to pay for it, he will need Congress to fund the construction. While Republicans control the House and Senate, some may balk at increasing our budget deficit by billions of dollars to fund the construction. So Trump may not get all the money he wants to build a wall.

Q. Can Trump increase the number of Border Patrol agents, or would that require Congressional action to fund it?

     A. Trump has two ways to increase the number of Border Patrol agents. First, he can move money around within the existing budget for the Department of Homeland Security. Second, he can ask Congress to fund an increase.

Q. How quickly could the new president end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, or DACA, program? Would that immediately end the validity of the work permit even if there were some months left on that permit? (DACA is a program that protects immigrants from deportation if they were brought into the country as children by providing them with work permits.)

     A. President Obama set up the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program by executive action. President Trump could unilaterally end it at any time. Because it is an executive action, President Trump could immediately terminate the work permits issued through that program if he wanted to.

Q. Can Trump increase the deportations or removal of noncitizens with criminal convictions? Would there be an impact in the nation's backlogged immigration courts?

     A. President Obama's current enforcement policies already target noncitizens with criminal convictions as the highest priority for deportation. Trump could expand that by adding more types of crimes to the highest priority. Individuals who want to contest their deportation have a right to a hearing before an immigration judge. There are already long backlogs in immigration courts. The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, for example, reports that over 521,000 cases are currently pending in immigration court. The wait times vary by court. In Colorado, for example, pending immigration cases are waiting an average of more than three years. Increasing the number of people alleged to be deportable will increase those backlogs.

Q. Could more people be detained who have entered the U.S. illegally? Is there enough detention bed space for this?

     A. Trump has the legal authority to detain more people who enter the United States illegally. He needs to find detention bed space, however. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency already is planning to expand existing detention facilities. The federal government can also rent space from local or state jails. All this will require congressional funding, however.

Q. Would the president have to go through Congress with legislation to limit legal immigration, or can he find another way, such as an executive action?

     A. Trump would need Congressional approval to decrease the number of people who can immigrate, or change the existing green card categories. He could take other actions to effectively slow down legal immigration, however, without going through Congress. For example, he could order the immigration agency to institute extra background screening procedures before anyone could get a green card. Doing that would not require Congressional approval.

Q. Would the president have to go through Congress to limit refugee admissions in general or specifically from Syria? Or can the president act on his own to decrease refugee admissions?

     A. Traditionally the president consults with Congress to set refugee admission numbers and from which countries. Given that Republicans will control both the House and Senate, Trump could easily get Congress to agree on changes to refugee admissions and to limit refugees from countries like Syria."