The North American immigration system has been the subject of some heated debate in recent months, but it goes well beyond the things that have happened since Barack Obama left office and Donald Trump took over the White House. Like much of the past, the history of immigration in America is messy and often contradictory. Times are especially scary for people hoping to immigrate soon, and for people who already live here but exist in a state of legal limbo. Immigration policy could always change with the next election, of course, but for now, immigrants, especially those in the United States, are facing some definite challenges.
The current climate
It’s easy to be unsure about what, exactly, is happening with the rate of immigration right now. Not even political leaders in the border states can agree on what’s going on. Recently, Texas Governor Greg Abbott claimed a more than 200 percent increase in the number of people and drugs being ferried across the border. However, the fact-checkers at Politifact found those claims to be more false than true. Late last year, reporters for National Public Radio found that immigration arrests are shifting from the border to the interior of the country. Under the Trump administration, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, has made it a higher priority to arrest people whose only wrongdoing is an immigration violation. Previously, the organization focused more on people who had either committed serious crimes or entered the country recently. Nowadays, it’s more likely that an undocumented immigrant who has lived here for 20 years will be arrested by ICE and deported.
What to do
So what does that mean for American citizens with family members who are not here legally? Some concern is definitely warranted, but the exact action depends on the specifics of the case at hand. The legal landscape will be more challenging if, for example, a judge has already issued a removal order applicant’s case, even if that order has previously gone unenforced. Contacting an immigration lawyer right away for a consult can help in these cases where time is of the essence. There may not be a lot of great options, unfortunately, but it’s better to know what’s coming ahead of time so everyone in the family can prepare for it. Different lawyers will have different areas of specialty. Some Canadian immigration lawyers are very knowledgeable about U.S. laws and can help a Canadian looking to move to Wisconsin, for example. Some U.S. immigration lawyers specialize in helping residents of Central America, while others may best be able to help Europeans. If a lawyer can’t help with a specific case, he or she will probably know someone else who can.
The borders of the United States have definitely tightened up, but they’re not closed. People are still being granted permanent residency status by the government. Don’t look at the news headlines and decide all is lost before consulting with an attorney. The current atmosphere makes it clear that United States immigration laws need to be updated, although the current Congress has shown little appetite for doing so. America has often been referred to as “a nation of immigrants,” and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.