Trump’s “Invisible Wall” Would Block Nearly Two-Thirds of Today’s Legal Immigrants


A detailed look at the Trump administration's restrictive immigration policies


In a typical year, about 1 million people qualify for lawful permanent residence in the United States — the first step to U.S. citizenship.

One step at a time, the Trump administration has built an “invisible wall” that, if left in place, would shut out nearly two-thirds of these aspiring Americans.

First Muslim Ban
Jan. 27, 2017
17,600 people
Blocks spouses, children, parents and other relatives of U.S. citizens, mostly from Muslim-majority countries.

Expanded Muslim Ban
Jan. 31, 2020
10,300 people
Blocks spouses, children, parents and other relatives of U.S. citizens, mostly from African countries.

Public Charge Rule
Feb. 20, 2020
355,000 people
“Wealth test” that will block spouses, children, parents and other relatives of U.S. citizens, mostly from non-European countries.

Asylum Ban
Mar. 24, 2020
11,000 people
Border closure — among many other anti-asylum policies — that will block families fleeing persecution.

Immigrant Visa Ban
Apr. 22, 2020
189,000 people
Blocks spouses, children, parents and other relatives of U.S. citizens, mostly from non-European countries.

Refugee Ban
Oct. 1, 2020
107,000 people
Blocks families overseas fleeing persecution.

That’s nearly 700,000 people every year — mostly husbands, wives, children, and other close relatives of U.S. citizens — who would have been eligible for permanent residence but are now ineligible.

If Trump’s policies endure, over 63% of today’s aspiring citizens would be banned from achieving the American dream.


Assumptions and Sources


In order to avoid double-counting, the numbers below are cumulative, based on the chronological order of the policies enacted.

  • First Muslim Ban and Expanded Muslim Ban: Boundless’ methodology explained here.
  • Public Charge Rule: Boundless estimated that as many as 53% of spouses of U.S. citizens and permanent residents could be rendered ineligible by the public charge rule’s income test alone. The Migration Policy Institute found that 43% of immigrants have at least two “negative factors” under the public charge rule. This piece assumes a 50% denial rate.
  • Asylum Ban: This piece assumes a continued near-total barrier to permanent residency based on defensive asylum, which comprises about one third of the annual total.
  • Immigrant Visa Ban: Boundless’ methodology explained here.
  • Refugee Ban: The Trump administration announced a historically low FY2021 refugee admissions cap of 15,000, which this piece assumes on a going-forward basis; the actual number of admitted refugees could be even lower.

The above policies would not necessarily cut total annual immigration by 63%, since some of these 700,000 green cards could go to immigrants who would have otherwise been placed in a queue. But 63% of individuals who would have previously been eligible for permanent residence — and ultimately U.S. citizenship — could find themselves ineligible.

Green card statistics.