Election 2024: A Second Trump Administration Promises to Grind Legal Immigration to a Halt

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Election 2024: A Second Trump Administration Promises to Grind Legal Immigration to a Halt

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Each presidential administration wields enormous power over the implementation of immigration laws and policies, a latitude granted by both Congress and the courts. This latitude has allowed for the creation of positive programs such as DACA in 2012, or negative changes such as the Trump administration’s policy to reject immigration applications with any blank spaces on them, even when the spaces were clearly inapplicable.

With a presidential election set for November 2024 and polls showing a tight race, there could be significant changes coming. Unlike in many elections, this year both candidates are known quantities. President Biden has had a full term in office (and 8 prior years as Vice President).  Former President Trump had four years in office and has his people who were in immigration leadership—and would likely be slotted right back into leadership roles should he re-take the White House—busily publishing detailed immigration plans in documents like the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 Mandate for Leadership.

Published plans for USCIS in a second Trump Administration include classifying USCIS as a national security-sensitive agency, re-focusing more USCIS resources on vetting and fraud detection, requiring interviews for “nearly 100 percent” of cases, and requiring that Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) sign off “on all approved applications and petitions before approval.” Routing each petition and application through FDNS will serve to create a choke point at an agency already struggling with massive backlogs. And as the choke point further worsens the delays, a second Trump administration proposes USCIS refusing to even accept further applications in categories with excessive backlogs. In sum, the would-be leadership of the immigration agencies in a second Trump Administration are promising to grind legal immigration to a halt.

While nothing productive comes from speculative panic, noncitizens and their families should be clear-eyed about the changes the election could bring and should consider taking appropriate steps now. For example, currently we are seeing some naturalization applications in the Denver USCIS office completed as quickly as three months. Naturalization applications filed now could see vastly different treatment, and processing times, compared to applications filed next year. Given current polling showing at least a 50% chance that Trump could win the election and set about making good on his promises, the time to assess the impact of his proposed policies and what might be done to insulate yourself from them is now.


Further Reading:

Niskanen Center on Project 2025

Heritage Foundation: Project 2025 Mandate for Leadership

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