It’s hard to write about the immigration consequences of the election in a non-political way. Campaign rhetoric makes millions of immigrants and millions more citizens anxious. The immigrants include people who are undocumented and those who are documented, new arrivals, longtime residents and prospective immigrants to the US. Most of the immigration-related campaign themes of President-elect Donald Trump concern undocumented and criminal immigrants, refugees and potential terrorists…not employment-based immigration for documented immigrants. “Building a wall” is both literal and figurative. A physical wall or fence on our 2000+ mile long border with Mexico and trebling the Border patrol would make unlawful entry across that border more difficult, even though out-migration of Mexicans currently exceeds in-migration. Extreme vetting of refugees, which we already have, could prevent “that one person” from coming who has terrorist ideas while leaving thousands of victims of terrorism in refugee camps outside of their homeland. Deporting criminal immigrants, which the Obama administration pursued more aggressively than any other, is already being done.
Do these have a direct effect on legal, employment based immigration? Not really.
Congress could change the law that underpins our legal immigration system to make it more restrictive and to limit the number of immigrants admitted for temporary or permanent employment. Executive action that gave employment authorization to about 800,000 “dreamers”, kids who were brought to the US illegally as minors by family members, could be repealed. Proposed administrative changes giving parole to entrepreneurs with capital seeking to start new businesses could be delayed indefinitely.
Employment-based immigration could be changed dramatically, but that was not a campaign theme. Enforcement was. Employers need to be cautious that their work force is composed of workers authorized to work in the US. Employers need to make sure that their I-9 processes and forms are in order (and should also be aware that a new Form I-9 will become effective on January 22, 2017). While immigration raids haven’t been employed since early in the Bush Administration, the theme of enforcement is likely to make inspections and fines more prevalent and more expensive.
The election was only one week ago. There may be dramatic changes in immigration law and policy; maybe not. People who have been procrastinating their filing of naturalization are filing now. Many people seeking immigration benefits will be pushing to file before January 20th. Employers with sloppy I-9s or a questionable work force would be wise to clean up. As the Trump administration makes good on some of its immigration pledges, we will be vigilant in following those changes. For now, business as usual – except for the anxiety.