Immigration has always been a hot topic, but the recent election of Donald Trump means that it’s in the spotlight even more. Many people are worried about how they could be affected, and some have already had difficulties thanks to Trump’s attempts to institute a travel ban on several Middle Eastern countries. Some of the rules instituted under Obama could now be reversed, undocumented migrants find themselves at risk, and there have been warnings of increased visa delays and denials from immigration lawyers. Changes to provisions for immigrants are interesting too, such as the expanded legal services for poor immigrants in New York that were recently announced.
There are lots of potential things to worry about for current immigrants in the US, as well as those who might have been planning to come into the country. For example, one change that could take place is that spouses of workers who hold H-1B visas may no longer be allowed to work. Under the Obama administration, the rules changed so if an H-1B visa holder (a skilled worker temporarily in the US) applied for permanent residence, their spouse could apply to work. But this could soon be changing, meaning that thousands of people, mostly women, would no longer be allowed to work.
A lawsuit filed in 2015 by workers who say they lost their jobs to H-1B visa holders challenges the Department of Homeland Security’s authority to create the H-4 employment visa category, which spouses of H-1B visas can work under. The Trump administration wants to clamp down on H-1B visas, with Jeff Sessions having opposed the decision to allow holders’ spouses to work.
Another issue affects not just those who come to the US to work and live, but travelers too. Stricter vetting at US embassies all over the world is likely to cause delays in visa applications. However, new rules for “extreme vetting” don’t apply to the countries under the visa waiver program, except for in cases where individuals might not be eligible for the visa waiver. Immigration experts expect there to be more visa denials.
Another recent change is one that aims to protect the rights of migrants. In New York, a new budget provision aims to provide expanded services for immigrants. $4 million of the $10 million in total will go to the Vera Institute of Justice’s New York Family Unity Project, which wants to make sure all undocumented migrants have access to an immigration visa lawyer. The grant will help the project provide lawyers for those who can’t afford them. The funds will help process green card applications, prevent deportations, and provide other services.
The rest of the $10 million budget is to be distributed between other legal organizations, such as the New York Immigration Coalition, the Hispanic Federation, and the Northern Manhattan Immigration Coalition. In March, Gov. Andrew Cuomo created the Liberty Defense Project, which aims to give immigrants guaranteed access to legal services.
It’s difficult to predict exactly how immigration will change under Trump, and how it will affect people’s lives. However, Trump’s policy is already having an impact in many ways.