Editor’s note: When it comes to immigration – illegal or otherwise – the American people have a right to be concerned. Each week, Liberty Nation author Kelli Ballard examines a contentious issue related to today’s hottest topic.
This year has seen a lot of changes, especially in immigration laws and procedures. President Donald Trump’s administration continues with the ongoing challenge of addressing the country’s illegal immigration crisis, making several huge strides despite constant battles with progressives who prefer open borders. Here are a few of the good, the bad, and the ugly changes enacted in 2019.
Aliens Allowed Driver’s Licenses
New York and New Jersey joined 11 other states in allowing unauthorized immigrants the right to drive. New York’s Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act, also known as the “Green Light Law,” was approved in June and went into effect on Dec. 16. Through it, illegal immigrants over the age of 16 can now obtain a valid driver’s license. This amounts to an estimated 882,000 aliens in that state alone who will now have legal documentation to drive.
The White House set a cap on the number of refugees the United States would allow into the country for fiscal year 2020. The limit was lowered to 18,000, the smallest amount on record since the original program began in 1980. During the last year of the Obama administration, the refugee ceiling was 85,000. Trump set the limit at 30,000 for 2019 and cut that number by nearly half for the new year. The State Department expects 368,000 new refugee and asylum claims in 2020.
The cost to the American people was one of the factors for the new rule. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spent more than $96 billion on programs that supported or benefited refugees between 2005 and 2014. A survey conducted by HHS indicated that, of the immigrant arrivals between 2011 and 2015, about 45% were receiving cash and 49% were receiving Medicaid.
Public Charge Rule Restricts Those Receiving Too Much Aid
On Aug. 12, the Trump administration announced an update to the 1999 public charge rule that will reduce the number of permanent residencies approved for those who have a history of receiving benefits. The updated rule is an effort to decrease some of the millions of dollars spent on welfare, food stamps, and other federally funded programs. Not all applicants who have received aid will be denied a green card, but those who have demonstrated long-term support may not be approved.
SCOTUS Approves New Rules for Asylum Seekers
Liberty Nation’s Mark Angelides wrote in September, “In what may turn out to be President Trump’s biggest victory to date, the Supreme Court has ruled that his administration can go ahead with the proposed new rules on dealing with asylum seekers.” The new rule requires them to claim asylum in the first safe country they enter before reaching the United States. If they do not, they are ineligible to make an application in the United States.
El Salvador Joins the Asylum Pact
On Sept. 20, the United States and El Salvador signed an asylum agreement much like the one between the United States and Guatemala. The arrangement requires the other country to offer asylum to migrants instead of sending them to the United States.
Military Children Not Automatically Citizens
Children born to one or more military parents are no longer automatically guaranteed U.S. citizenship. The update to this policy clarifies that temporary visits to the United States do not establish residence; also, it defines the distinction between residence and physical presence in the United States. Basically, the update says that children of U.S. government employees or armed forces living outside the country will not be regarded as “residing in the United States” for the purposes of gaining citizenship.
CA Ending Contract Prisons
California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s newest bill, AB 32, which prevents new contracts for private or for-profit prisons, goes into effect in January. Currently, about 5% of the state’s inmates are incarcerated in these types of prisons, but the real impact will be on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and its detention centers. This bill also prohibits operating a private immigration detention facility in a for-profit prison after January 2028.
Extending H-2B Visas for Immigrant Workers
The Trump administration expanded the H-2B visa program to allow up to 30,000 more foreign seasonal workers in the United States on a temporary basis. This gives businesses the opportunity to hire seasonal help that is not being met by Americans. This was not greeted with resounding approval across the board as some U.S. citizens believe too many immigrants are taking away jobs. LN’s Andrew Moran said, “The data suggests that something has depressed and lowered the wages of most Americans. Some of that trend is surely due to immigration, as the H-2B data shows.”
Visa Requirement – Show Your Social Media Accounts
As of May 31, foreign nationals who want to visit, work, or study in the United States faced a new requirement in the visa application process. They will face issues if they do not provide their social media accounts. The rule applies to the past five years of media account usage over several platforms, including Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Reddit, Twitter, Tumblr, and YouTube.
Closing U.S. Immigration Agencies Overseas
While some reports claimed the Trump administration was closing all U.S. immigration agencies on foreign land, some still remain open. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it will maintain operations in Beijing and Guangzhou, China; Nairobi, Kenya; and New Delhi, India, as well as Guatemala City, Guatemala; Mexico City, Mexico; and San Salvador, El Salvador. The other 13 field offices and three district offices are closing, a process scheduled to be completed by August 2020. The first closures were in Monterrey, Mexico, and Seoul, South Korea.
Where We Stand on the Wall
The border wall construction process has been slow but steady, despite lawsuits, arguments, and constant interference from the left. In November, the president assigned his son-in-law, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, the task of getting it done. The majority of the work has focused on replacing degraded sections, about 83 miles. Another 66 miles, including nine miles of new secondary fencing, have been upgraded as well. Kushner is striving to complete 450 miles of border barrier before the 2020 election.
Read more from Kelli Ballard.