As White House officials debate the future of American immigration, U.S. residents grow more uncertain as to how Trump’s immigration policies will affect both undocumented and documented immigrants.
The government shutdown ended Jan. 23 when Congress passed a temporary budget plan that didn’t address immigration policy. Leading up to the shutdown, Democrats demanded an end to Trump’s border wall proposal and revisal of the diversity visa lottery program and family reunification policies. Republicans contrastingly bargained for the construction of the wall and the elimination of both immigration policies mentioned.
Both parties, however, advocated for the reinstatement of the Deferred Action to Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy though with different preferred stipulations.
The Trump administration said on Jan. 25 that it will readily accept the DACA path to citizenship in return for a $25 billion investment in border infrastructure and policy and abolishment of the diversity visa lottery and family reunification immigration policies.
Here is a breakdown of the immigration policies currently included in the congressional debate around immigration reform.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
DACA secured residency for certain immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as minors. According to CNN Politics, the program did not offer “Dreamers” a pathway to citizenship, but deferred their deportation, enabled them to obtain driver’s licenses, enroll in university and legally obtain jobs. The program, rescinded by Trump in September, is currently accepting renewals if applicants meet the initial 2012 DACA guidelines.
If DACA is reinstated it will be modified, providing citizenship pathways for over 1.6 million prospective Dreamers. It will cover individuals who were previously protected under DACA as well as undocumented immigrants who met DACA requirements but did not sign up.
Trump stated that for his administration to pass DACA, Congress must first end the two other forms of legal U.S. immigration, the diversity visa lottery program and family reunification policies.
Border investment and the wall
In exchange for providing residency for DACA recipients, Trump is demanding a $25 billion investment in border infrastructure and policy. $18 billion of the investment will go to the construction of a 722 mile-long border wall. The remaining cost will cover technology costs and salaries for 15,000 new border and immigration personnel and 10,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
The likeliness of the wall’s construction is uncertain due to intensive congressional debate. However, the Trump administration has built eight 30-foot-tall prototypes along the San Diego border.
Family Reunification Migration
Through family reunification policies, green card holders or legal U.S. residents can sponsor a family member’s migration to the U.S. Between 60 and 70 percent of lawful immigration in the past decade occurred through family reunification policies, making this the most common form of immigration in the U.S. The White House does not want to end this policy, but instead wants to limit family reunification to only immediate spouses and minor children, eliminating the inclusion of extended family.
Diversity Visa Lottery
The diversity visa lottery is one of the U.S.’s current pathways to legalized immigration and citizenship that Trump wants to eliminate in exchange for revitalizing DACA. The program grants individuals from countries that have low immigration rates to the U.S. the chance to apply for a visa. The winners of this lottery are evaluated similarly to immigrants applying for work, travel and student visas. The Diversity Visa Lottery caused controversy within Congress, as both Democratic and Republican parties are willing to reconstruct the diversity visa lottery, but not fully disband it.
Democrats want to keep diversity in the system, as it is a key way to allow African immigrants into the U.S., while Republicans want to reconstruct the program on the basis of merit.
In place of the diversity visa lottery system and family reunification policies, Trump is calling for merit-based immigration, a system modeled after Canada’s point-based immigration system.
Under this system, each immigrant would acquire a certain number of points based on categories such as education and work experience. Each year, the applicants with the highest number of points would receive green cards. As long as Democrats can filibuster, the bill is unlikely to pass through the Senate due to their opposition to it.
Trump’s proposed policies could massively affect the livelihood of UC Santa Cruz’s undocumented community, like UCSC undocumented student Taylor Torres*.
“In terms of chain migration, I feel like it is an attack on our communities as a whole,” Torres said. “[The repeal of the program is] inherently racist because it dehumanizes anyone that is an immigrant and tears families apart.”
If implemented, the proposed policies would impact undocumented students, including the about 4,000 in the UC system, as well as their families and communities. While Torres hopes for immigration reform, they realize DACA isn’t a solution.
“The reinstatement of DACA would be a bandage on a wound,” Torres said.
DACA allows extended residency in the U.S. but no path to citizenship. Torres said if the White House truly wanted to enact favorable change, it would listen to the needs of undocumented students.
“Our community is what builds us and it’s what holds us together, but at some point we do have to assert ourselves in front of the administration,” Torres said. “And that’s hard to do if we don’t have allies who have more power on this campus.”
*Name changed to protect anonymity.