Trump Administration Releases Immigration Policy Priorities

On October 8th, 2017, the White House produced an executive summary of the Trump Administration’s Immigration Policy Priorities. The one-page document outlines several policy proposals, some far more drastic than others, concerning border security, interior enforcement, and a merit-based immigration system.

Border Security

The most prominent of the Administration’s immigration policy priorities is the complete construction of a wall along the country’s border with Mexico. President Trump first called for his border wall on June 16th, 2015, in the same speech during which he announced his campaign for the presidency. The wall is described as “meaningful physically”, but the document provides no further description.

The proposal further authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to raise fees “from the processing of immigration-benefit applications and border-crossings to be used for security and infrastructure”. It is unclear whether these fees would be specifically appropriated for border wall construction.

The Administration next turns to mending “one of the largest loopholes in the U.S. border security”: Unaccompanied Alien Children and family units. The policy proposal proposes a system of expedited removal to ensure members of the aforementioned demographics are not released into the United States and instead are returned home.

President Trump argues for stricter legal standards, particularly with regards to “misguided judicial decisions” and the “credible fear” standard for asylum applicants. The Administration believes that these heightened standards will reduce “massive” court backlog, and couples this proposal with the hiring of an additional 370 Immigration Judges and 1,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attorneys.

Finally, the proposal broadly mentions dis-incentivizing re-entry through enhanced legal and fiscal penalties, as well as expanding categories of inadmissibility, yet does not specify what these penalties may entail. 

Interior Enforcement

The proposal next takes aim at “Sanctuary Cities”, and threatens to withhold funding for certain grants and cooperative agreements from jurisdictions that refuse to honor “requests from ICE to hold criminal aliens who are already in state and local custody”. In a statement in response to the White House’s principles, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) refers to this demand as “unconstitutional”.

This section of the documents also advocates for the additional hiring of 10,000 ICE officers, increasing overstay penalties for temporary visa holders, and the end of the “Catch-And-Release” policy as established by the Supreme Court in Zadvydas v. Davis (2001), which prohibits indefinite detention of immigrants.

President Trump further argues that his Administration can better protect American workers by expanding the definition of unlawful discrimination to specifically include the displacement of U.S. workers by nonimmigrant workers.

Finally, President Trump pledges to stop visa fraud by providing the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security with additional funding and flexibility.

Merit-Based Reforms

In his final section of the Executive Summary, President Trump turns to a merit-based immigration policy reform, mirroring the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act, or RAISE Act, proposed by Senators Cotton and Perdue earlier this year and endorsed by the White House.

The point-based system rewards applicants for educational attainment, English proficiency, and willingness to invest financially to the United States. In the Senate proposal, individuals must reach 30 points to qualify for a Green Card, and it appears as though the Trump Administration seeks to institute a similar program.

The White House further seeks to limit the number of accepted refugees to “an appropriate level”, favoring resettlement outside of the United States, and eliminate the Diversity Visa Lottery, which randomly allots 50,000 Green Cards every year to native citizens of countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S.

The President addresses the concept of “chain migration”, a theory in which states that the social cost of immigrating to the United States is mitigated when family or community members have already established roots in the country, and pledges to “end” the process which accounts for “more than 60 percent of immigration into the United States over the last 35 years”.


Elaine Duke of the Department of Homeland Security, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have all since come forward in support of the Trump Administration’s proposals. Secretary Tillerson stated that, “Even as we take new steps to protect Americans, we will make sure the United States remains a beacon of liberty for people the world over”. His statement both embraces the America First ideology evident throughout the proposal while seemingly attempting to reassure the nation of his commitment to preserving the United States’ status as a global symbol of freedom.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) takes a far more aggressively oppositional stance to the Trump Administration’s Immigration Principles. In their statement, representatives of the association describe President Trump’s border wall spending “wasteful and unnecessary”, his stance on Sanctuary Cities as “chipping away at the principles of due process”, and his merit-based immigration proposal as severely limiting to family-based immigration--“one of the foundations of America’s economic success”.

For more information concerning the Trump Administration’s policy proposals and how they may affect you or your business, please call our office at (856) 222-0130.

Call us at (856) 222-0130