The Facts: Changes in Immigration Policy

Recent months have seen an alarming attack on immigrants and refugees from the federal administration. With everything going on, it's difficult to keep the impact of each policy change straight. This page provides some brief background on what's going on in the world of federal immigration policy, and it will be updated to reflect new information.

Family Separation Policy

On July 26, the Trump administration failed to meet the court-ordered deadline to reunite all of the families it separated at the border. One in three of the 2,551 children who were separated from their parents at the border still remain separated from their parents despite the July 26th court deadline issued by U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw. Judge Dana Sabraw ruled the government’s practice of separating families was inhumane and unconstitutional. 463 parents were deported without their children and on July 24th, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed more than a hundred pages of affidavits from attorneys and detained parents showing that many of these parents were not aware that they had relinquished their right to reunification. Over a hundred pages of personal declarations demonstrated that migrant parents separated from their children at the border were pressured by immigration officials to sign forms waiving their reunification rights in a coercive and misleading manner and were not provided documents in their languages.

On July 10, the Trump administration failed to meet the court-ordered deadline to reunite all children under the age of 5 with their parents who were separated at the border under the zero tolerance policy. According to the Department of Justice, 57 children out of the 103 children under the age of 5 were reunited with their parents before the 14-day court deadline.

On June 26, U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw barred the separation of migrant children and issued a preliminary injunction requiring reunification of all separated children under the age of 5 within 14 days (July 10), and all children within 30 days (July 26) with their parents. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed this lawsuit that cited violations of the Constitution’s due process clause and federal law protecting asylum seekers.

On June 20, President Trump issued an Executive Order that “maintains family unity” by detaining children and parents together indefinitely - a change that continues to victimize, criminalize and traumatize asylum seeking parents and children. The Executive Order attempts to overrule the Flores Settlement, which prohibits the detention of migrant children at the border for more than 20 days. It is also unclear how the federal administration will reunite more than 10,000 separated children with their families. The federal administration is trying to legalize the indefinite detention of asylum-seeking children and parents.

On May 7, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy requiring officers under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to refer all immigrants apprehended at the U.S. border for criminal charges. In effect, this means that if an asylum seeking adult crosses with their child, the child will be taken away from the adult and placed in detention. The impacts of this policy cannot be overstated: the children will face long-term psychological damage from this cruel and inhumane policy.

You can help these people by volunteering to help affected families, or by donating to an organization that helps pay for bonds for people to be released to be reunited with their children.

Read More: NPR, The New York Times (on the policy), The New York Times (on the executive order), The Washington Post, ACLU, PBS, CNN

Asylum Restrictions for Survivors of Violence Seeking Refuge

On July 11, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a new asylum policy that will turn away thousands of asylum seekers, refugees and other people seeking protection under U.S law before they can go before a judge and go through court proceedings. The guidance informs asylum officers to immediately deny all asylum claims based on fear of domestic and gang violence that meet the statutory criteria for asylum. The U.S. government is making the act of crossing the border in search of protection grounds for denying asylum, in violation of U.S. and international laws which guarantee the right to seek asylum for people fleeing persecution and violence in their home countries.

On June 11, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions used an unusual move to limit access to asylum for people fleeing persecution. Session overturned an immigration appellate court’s decision known as the Matter of A-B- and direct immigration courts to no longer accept domestic violence, persecution from gang violence, and other forms of violence in their home countries as a viable reason to claim asylum. This decision was extremely misguided and will disproportionately affect women fleeing domestic violence, children fleeing persecution from gangs, and families seeking refuge from persecution.

Source: CNN, AILA, Reuters

The Muslim Travel Ban

On June 26, 2018, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold the President’s Muslim Travel Ban in Trump v Hawaii. The case challenged the third iteration of the travel ban, which the Supreme Court had allowed to go through while litigation proceeded. The ban restricts travel from five majority Muslim countries (Iran, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, and Libya) as well as North Korea and Venezuela. Just like the Zero Tolerance policy at the Southern Border, the travel ban is effectively another family separation policy.

The Muslim Ban Decision & Family Incarceration Webinar (NILC): The National Immigration Law Center  webinar includes an analysis of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Muslim Ban case, next steps on the issue, background on the family separation/family detention issue, and ways that you can get involved.

Read More: The New York Times


On September 5, 2017, President Trump announced that he would be ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, effective on October 5. This last minute decision sent thousands of undocumented youth scrambling to resubmit their DACA applications before the Oct. 5 deadline. In January 2018, a federal court issued a nationwide injunction on the President’s Executive Order; as a result, USCIS is now once again accepting and processing applications for renewal.

The future of the program is uncertain, given that it is still being challenged in the federal court system and Congress has yet to pass legislation to protect undocumented youth. Check out the DACA litigation timeline from the National Immigration Law Center.

You can help by volunteering to help a Dreamer submit their DACA application or by donating to an organization supporting undocumented youth.

Read More: Informed Immigrant

Increased ICE Enforcement

The Trump Administration has been pursuing an aggressive immigration enforcement policy during the last 18 months. Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have continually conducted raids on immigrant communities and arrested immigrants with even minor criminal offenses, often employing unlawful or coercive tactics to arrest people.

As a result, there are many people currently in detention awaiting trials and facing potential deportation – often without legal representation.

You can help by volunteering to defend someone in deportation proceedings or donating to an organization supporting people facing deportation.

Read More: Mercury News, ACLU

Watch: Immigrants Families Need Legal Representation