On December 10, 2018, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) quietly implemented a new obstacle for over 166,000 married couples each year: Nearly all of them will be required to attend an in-person interview 2 years after receiving a marriage-based green card, where they will have to prove the authenticity of their marriage for a second time. The coming influx of new interviews is bound to exacerbate backlogs for green cards and U.S. citizenship, as well.
This is just the latest of the Trump administration’s extraordinary efforts to restrict legal immigration. As 2018 comes to a close, here is a non-exhaustive list of the year’s top 10 legal immigration policy changes (not including well-known humanitarian programs):
On January 3, the U.S. Department of State began to exclude more people seeking to enter the United States from abroad, if they are deemed too poor, old, or unhealthy. The city of Baltimore recently sued to block this move.
On October 10, DHS unveiled its proposed “public charge rule,” a backdoor wealth test that would slash legal immigration by more than 50%, separate nearly 200,000 married couples each year, and cost up to $13 billion in annual compliance costs alone.
By letting the latest iteration of the travel ban go forward, in June the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to block nearly all applications for green cards and temporary visas from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen (plus lesser restrictions on Venezuela). Some long-separated Iranian families have resorted to reuniting for a single day in a remote library that happens to straddle the U.S.-Canada border.
DHS announced a “zero-room-for-error” policy toward legal immigration applications, scaling back the ability of applicants to correct minor mistakes and initiating deportation proceedings against anyone who is out of status at the moment their application is denied.
Going forward, DHS will bar international students from the United States for up to 10 years based on any visa infraction, no matter how minor or innocent. A number of universities have sued to block this move.
Bit by bit, DHS has made it more difficult for U.S. employers to hire and retain skilled workers on H-1B visas, with unintended consequences that may harm U.S. workers.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an agency within DHS, stated that “the current Administration’s priorities” do not include implementing the International Entrepreneur Rule, an Obama-era policy that would make it easier for startup founders to build companies in the United States and employ American workers.
USCIS launched a new office dedicated to ramping up the number of naturalized Americans who are ultimately stripped of their U.S. citizenship for past infractions.
USCIS no longer deems “secur[ing] America’s promise as a nation of immigrants” as its primary purpose, having scrubbed positive language about immigrants from its mission statement.