If it has felt like the practice of immigration law has gotten harder over the past year or so, you’re right. Since January 2017, the Trump administration has adopted a vast array of policies and procedures that are slowing, and even stopping, legal immigration to the United States, without any Congressional action. But these policies are having an impact. The invisible wall is harming all of us.
U.S. companies are facing unprecedented scrutiny on immigration applications for skilled workers, including a massive increase in Requests for Evidence (RFEs), making it more difficult for businesses to hire and retain top talent from around the world to fill critical gaps in the U.S. workforce and drive innovation. Close family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents are being forced to remain separated for longer periods of time, in some cases indefinitely, due to the President’s travel bans and “extreme vetting” initiatives. Humanitarian benefits and programs, such as Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), are being eliminated or curtailed, meaning potentially hundreds of thousands of individuals who have resided in the U.S. for decades are in danger of removal to countries in turmoil. And although the administration has attempted to justify these policies as somehow necessary to protect our national security and the U.S. workforce, all of that rationale falls flat because these policies are based on the false presumption that immigrants are dangerous and legal immigration is bad for our country, when in fact, study after study shows the opposite: Immigration benefits our nation. Truly, the administration has built an “invisible wall,” that closes America’s doors to legal immigrants, a key factor in our shared prosperity.
In our new report, “Deconstructing the Invisible Wall: How Policy Changes by the Trump Administration are Slowing and Restricting Legal Immigration,” AILA sheds light on the invisible wall that is harming U.S. businesses, American families, and the U.S. economy. Highlighted by real-life case examples, AILA’s report breaks down the administration’s policies and procedures into six broad categories:
- Travel bans and extreme vetting directives that halt or delay immigration, without any justification beyond unsubstantiated national security claims;
- Policies that restrict the admission of skilled workers and entrepreneurs to the United States, at the expense of U.S. businesses and our nation’s economic growth;
- The termination of programs for compelling populations, sowing fear and uncertainty among thousands of people who have resided in the U.S. for decades;
- Hurdles to naturalization for foreign-born soldiers, which are unnecessary and ignore the needs of our military;
- The growing backlog of immigration applications, increasing processing times, and increasing fees; and,
- A decreasing focus on stakeholder input and customer service by federal agencies, adding up to major problems, given the complexities inherent in the immigration system.
Taken together, these policies are slowing and restricting legal immigration to the United States, at the expense of U.S. businesses, American families, local communities, and our national economy.
Among the real-life stories described in AILA’s report is the story of Nazanin*, an Iranian neuroscientist and expert in aging and dementia, who dreams of pursuing a career in U.S. alongside other prominent researchers. In 2017, she filed a national interest waiver immigrant petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), based on her internationally recognized expertise as a neuroscientist and a leader and specialist in dementia. While she awaits a decision on her application from USCIS, she is concerned that even if her application is approved, she will be denied a waiver to come to the U.S., which she requires as a national of a country subject to the travel ban. As a precaution, Nazanin is currently researching her options to immigrate to other countries that may be more welcoming and interested in benefiting from her research. Given how many of us have family members suffering from aging and dementia-related challenges, it boggles the mind that the U.S. wouldn’t welcome her and her expertise with open arms.
Nazanin’s story is just one of the many compelling stories documented in Deconstructing the Invisible Wall that demonstrate the real-world impact that the Trump administration’s restrictive immigration policies are having on immigrants and why we cannot afford to close our doors to legal immigration. As reflected in the report, immigrants living and working in the U.S. based on employer sponsorship, family ties, and humanitarian protection help make our nation stronger, better, and more vibrant by driving innovation and economic growth, building stronger communities, and enriching our nation’s cultural diversity. The “invisible wall” that is being built by the administration is harmful to the U.S. and needs to be dismantled. Through its report, AILA has highlighted the bricks in the wall, and the administration only wants to build it higher. But Congress, the courts, and public opinion need to demolish the wall. Our shared prosperity and our nation’s legacy as a nation of immigrants depend on it.
AILA members and members of the public can help dismantle the invisible wall by speaking out against the administration’s destructive immigration policies. Take action by lifting up AILA’s Deconstructing the Invisible Wall report on social media by using the graphics and sample tweets on AILA’s website. Write Letters to the Editor and Op-Eds in your local newspaper sharing your own personal stories or the experiences of people you know. Those stories show in an undeniable way how the Trump administration’s restrictive immigration policies are negatively impacting U.S. businesses, American families, and our local communities.
And if you want to head up to Capitol Hill and make your voice heard in person, don’t miss AILA’s National Day of Action on April 12, 2018, where AILA members and their clients will have the opportunity to speak with Members of Congress and their staff about the negative impact of these restrictive policies and urge them to exert more oversight over the administration’s immigration agencies. Every single brick in the invisible wall is harmful to U.S. businesses, American families, local communities, and our national economy. As the Trump administration tries to build a bigger wall, we need to stand together and help dismantle the invisible wall, brick by brick.
*Name changed for privacy