Four Years of Profound Change: Immigration Policy during the Trump Presidency
Over the course of four years, the Trump administration set an unprecedented pace for executive action on immigration, enacting 472 administrative changes that dismantled and reconstructed many elements of the U.S. immigration system. Humanitarian protections were severely diminished. The U.S.-Mexico border became more closed off. Immigration enforcement appeared more random. And legal immigration became out of reach for many. All of this was accomplished nearly exclusively by the executive branch, with sweeping presidential proclamations and executive orders, departmental policy guidance, and hundreds of small, technical adjustments.
This report, which concludes a series of MPI reports providing an overview of policies at different points during the Trump administration, chronicles the immigration actions, large and small, that President Donald Trump and his administration took from January 20, 2017, through January 20, 2021. After an overview of the transformation of the U.S. immigration system during this historic period, the report breaks these hundreds of changes down by issue area: the administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic; border and interior enforcement; actions involving the Department of Justice and the immigration court system; the admission of refugees, asylum seekers, and other humanitarian migrants; changes to vetting and visa processes, which involve the State Department, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the Department of Labor; and actions involving agencies usually less central to immigration policy discussions.
As the authors write, “While it may be possible for subsequent administrations to rescind many of these changes, others cannot simply be unwound.” Many are likely to remain on the books for years to come, with a lasting impact on the U.S. immigration system.
A. What Has Changed?
B. Driving Reform through Layered Changes
C. Pushback and the Search for Alternatives
D. Cataloging a Period of Intense Change
2 Pandemic Response
A. Travel Bans and Visa Processing
B. Border Security and Asylum Processing at the U.S.-Mexico Border
C. Interior Enforcement
D. The Immigration Court System
E. Immigration Benefits
3 Immigration Enforcement
A. Border Security
B. Interior Enforcement
4 U.S. Department of Justice
A. Instructions to Immigration Judges
B. Attorney General Referral and Review
5 Humanitarian Migration
B. Asylum Seekers
C. Unaccompanied Children
D. Temporary Protected Status Recipients
E. Victims of Trafficking and Other Crimes
6 U.S. Department of State
7 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and U.S. Department of Labor
A. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
B. Immigrant Visas
C. Nonimmigrant Visas
8 Other Actions