Be a Voice: How "New" is Trump's Immigration Policy?

By Campaign Agent Charlotte Forrest

The ongoing saga that is the presidency of Donald Trump reached a fever-pitch recently when pictures of his ‘wall in progress’ surfaced online. The heart-wrenching images of crying children torn away from their parents at the U.S. - Mexican border not only shocked the international community, but has resulted in Trump’s administration to further be regarded as hostile and malicious. This can especially be argued to be the case when one considers past unpopular policies such as Trump’s 2017 travel ban that primarily affected Muslim-majority countries. However, are Trump’s immigration policies anything new? Or is this simply a continuation of previous precedent set by past administrations?

Due to recent enforcement of stricter policies for deportation through ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) during the summer of 2018, over 2,400 children were forcibly separated from their parents while crossing the U.S.- Mexican border. Since there has been a great number of similar cases that went unreported before this revelation, the effect that this policy has had on families involved is immeasurable. This, paired with the steps being taken to limit the number of applicants who are granted asylum through the Credible-Fear test — a process in which immigrants have to prove that by returning to their native country they would be under threat— is creating an inhospitable environment for many refugees. It means that children and their parents are trapped in separate backlogged immigration systems, which can result in the deportation of one family member while another is still awaiting the results of this long process. Thus, heightening families’ fear of whether they will be reunited with each other again.

Currently, Trump’s amended travel ban halts migration (with strict exceptions for students and business visas) from the following 7 countries: North Korea, Syria, Iran, Libya, Venezuela, Somalia, and Yemen. (and any citizens) from 7 middle eastern countries, all of which the Trump administration deems to be potential threats to America’s national security.  After much backlash to his executive order for a travel ban that initially targeted predominant Muslim countries (what critics and judges deemed a “Muslim ban”), Trump claimed that his policy resembled the Obama immigration policies in 2011 — referring to the period in which Obama banned visas for Iraqi refugees for 6 months — and argued that his new policy for monitoring undocumented immigrants is not dissimilar to that of the previous administration. However, the current president and his predecessor differ in many ways when one conducts a cross-comparison between their immigration policies. Obama`s actions were in response to a confirmed, imminent threat which involved a failed terror plot by two Iraqi nationals in the USA. Trump`s policy, on the other hand, was rashly implemented after his inauguration, as a blanket ban with no physical evidence of a threat from any of the originally-banned countries involved. Therefore, the two presidents do differ in that Obama responded to proven threats, whereas Trump has capitalised upon unverifiable potential threats. Another stark difference is that Trump`s travel ban halted refugee migration from predominant Muslim countries, which differs from the 1,020 refugees that were still allowed to enter the U.S. from these same regions during Obama’s temporary ban.

June 2018, yet again, saw the Trump administration hitting the headlines, this time for actions which were much closer to home. Throughout his 2016 election campaign Trump called for a wall that divided Capitol Hill to a great degree and recent coverage of deportations and separations at the U.S. - Mexican border has contributed to more public outrage. Again, comparisons can be drawn with Obama as both presidents prosecuted many undocumented immigrants and one will see that their respective policies vary to a large degree. Obama`s policies saw more than 2 million deportations, surpassing all past administrations, and Trump`s policy created family separation through “zero tolerance” tactics. Indeed, the record number of deportations seen under Obama’s administration were troubling and garnered public backlash. However, Obama’s policies later made an exception for young immigrants through his implementation of the DREAM Act, after recognising their value to US society. In contrast, Trump only reconsidered his policies when political and public criticism surmounted, and policy revisions are yet to be seen. Additionally, Trump`s immigration approach has, thus far, taken no immediate action to reunite families affected by deportation, whereas Obama vied to unite families through the DACA/Dream Act despite having to overcome the challenge of an opposing Republican-majority Congress. Thus, Trump enacted a far more punitive policy that was not only destructive, but fundamentally flawed and unenforceable long-term.

In conclusion, whilst more comparisons can be drawn, the disparities between the immigration policies of these two administrations become increasingly clear. Obama’s policies were formed by the verification of legitimate threats, and travel restrictions were more conditional than any of those proposed by the current inhabitants of the Oval Office. Trump’s ‘blanket bans’ were not just calculated and divisive, but unjustifiably severe. Although Trump claims his immigration approach is similar to Obama, the implementation and stipulations/exceptions of their respective policies differ significantly. 2008-2016 was a time of more decisive action against immigration, but so far, 2016-2018 has been a period of purely hostile and dismissive action against immigration. Therefore, just like every other aspect of Trump’s administration, the development of his immigration policies are completely unpredictable.

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Image: Sean Spicer @Wikimedia Commons