NEW YORK – It was on the cards, with President Donald Trump fulfilling campaign promises, turn around executive orders issued by the Obama administration: to end a humanitarian amnesty program known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which allows illegal immigrants who were brought to the country as a child, to live and work legally in the country. More than 800,000 individuals benefit from it; another 1 million are eligible for it.
Now, the Trump administration has said it might end DACA, is likely not to defend it in court if a lawsuit brought by 11 states, including Texas, goes ahead. They will, in the near future, likely stop issuing the two-year renewable work permits given to DACA recipients.
DACA was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2012. Anyone under 30 years of age who came to the U.S. illegally before the age of 16 and before June of 2007, is eligible.
If DACA ends, the deportation drive by the Trump administration will move into a totally different phase, targeting, apart from unskilled workers, also, educated, skilled individuals across all strata of society, including school and college students, blue collar and white collar workers, entrepreneurs, scientists, physicians, and engineers.
Reports said there are a slew of other immigration decisions looming for the Trump administration, apart from the death of DACA, as soon as next month: to renew or not temporary protective status for citizens of Haiti, El Salvador, Honduras, Somalia and Yemen, and to retain or end the loophole-ridden EB-5 visa, which allows for a Green Card in exchange for money poured into an investment project in the US.
Going by Trump’s recent surprising decision to disband an entrepreneur visa which would have allowed individuals with financial backing by private or government funds to start a business in the US, EB-5 visa is likely to face the same fate, on the chopping block, though it may survive if the minimum ceiling for investment is hiked up, substantially.
If DACA is abolished, and a biometric system put in place that tracks workers and students, punishes employers who hire illegal workers, not only would it drastically reduce the inflow of illegal immigrants to the US, Trump might eventually find that the wall he wants to build on the Mexico border is inconsequential. Not many might be inclined to step foot into a country where it would be tough to find work, and danger of deportation for children hovers daily.
There was a huge inflow of illegal immigrants after Obama signed the memorandum for DACA. If it’s ended, the reverse might happen, as illegal immigrants would realize the harsh truth: having young children in a family will not be a deterrent for deportation.
If the Trump administration decides to also challenge the validity of citizenship of children of illegal immigrants born in the US, get a decision in their favor, it might very well spell the biggest drop in illegal immigration in this century. There have been murmurs on that front for long.
Though specific numbers are not there, many Indian nationals will be affected by the end of DACA.
However, another decision may be of greater significance, for the legal immigrant community: the fate of the Employment Authorization Card (EAD) for some H-4 visa individuals – the visa given to dependents of an H-1B visa worker, typically to spouse and children.
The issue of an EAD or work permit to H-4 visa individuals has been hanging fire for a while. The Trump administration is at present in the midst of taking public opinion on the matter, an indication that they might be strongly considering reversal to issuing a work permit to spouse of H-1B visa workers – which was accomplished through an executive order issued by the Obama administration over two years ago.
It’s not known if the issue of the EAD for H-4 visa workers came up during the recent visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US. Indian government officials have not announced it publicly.
But more than the H-1B visa issue – which is a matter for US Congress to take a decision on and which Indian politicians have no control of – Modi and his entourage would have had a better chance of convincing Trump of continuing with it, as India sends the most number of skilled workers to America. EAD for spouse of workers is an important component for quality of life in the US.
For now, one thing’s sure: there’s slow dread spreading in immigrant communities across all the 50 states, for some legal and all illegal immigrants.
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: email@example.com Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)