By Suzanne E. Vazquez | US Immigration Attorney
Posted: February 09, 2017
President Trump is seeking to limit immigration. Not just illegal immigration by building a wall, but legal immigration as well. About 1 million people legally immigrate to the United States annually with permanent visas. Contrast that with 11 million annual temporary visitors. Anti-immigration groups want to slash the number of permanent visas in half.
How? By getting rid of what they call “chain migration.” Chain migration is the term they use to describe perceived abuse of the visa system to apply for other family members once any other family member obtains the ability to do so. The anti-immigrant influencers surrounding the President are proponents for change that include eliminating most of the family-based preference categories.
Currently, the overwhelming majority of immigrants who receive immigrant visas (also known as green cards) are family-sponsored immigrants. One of the policies built into in our current immigration law is that of family unity. That policy would be replaced by a policy geared towards granting immigrant visas based on merit.
Approximately 25 percent of the one million immigrants are immediate relatives (spouses, parents and minor children of US citizens). Another 25 percent are family preference immigrants which include adult unmarried and married children of US Citizens, as well as brothers and sisters of US Citizens. Additionally, lawful permanent residents can file petitions for their spouses and unmarried children under the preference category system, but they generally have a longer wait for an immigrant visa than those petitioned for by USC family members.
Employment-based immigrant visas account for only 15 percent of immigrant visas issued annually with the balance of immigrant visas going to diversity lottery, humanitarian, and other special immigrant programs.
Just how much influence the anti-immigrant groups exert over the President remains to be seen. Congress will have to pass any proposed laws. Overhauling the legal immigration system cannot be done by executive order.
We know that President Trump has taken measures through executive order to limit immigration from certain Muslim countries. That order is being challenged in court. But it does show that he is taking steps to limit immigration as he said he would in his Phoenix speech following his Mexico visit on August 31, 2016.
The 10 Trump Immigration goals laid out in his speech are as follows:
This probably won’t all happen at the same time, but I expect President Trump to fulfill these promises in due course.
In the short term, expect to see and hear more about increased enforcement against people in this country with final removal orders (criminal or not). I also expect that workplace raids will frequently occur and that E Verify, an electronic work authorization verification program for employers, will be mandated.
My advice is to immediately file petitions for family members that want to immigrate in the future and that if you are here on a temporary status and want to stay, to get started on your path to the green card as soon as possible. If you are here on a temporary work permit ask your employer to sponsor you for a labor certification now!