Immigration impact of the 2016 election results

The surprising and historical results of the Nov. 8, 2016 general election has left the immigrant community and immigration law practitioners with more questions than answers. However, we want to reach out to all of you at this time to review the facts as we presently know them, and offer some general advice.

First, immigration policy will not change immediately. No substantial changes to immigration law or policy can occur until after President-Elect Donald J. Trump is sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017. Until then, immigration law and policy will continue to be enforced as it was prior to the election. Initiatives implemented by President Barack Obama, including the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the enforcement priorities utilized by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (USICE) will not change until action is taken by the next administration to repeal or change them. The earliest this can occur is Jan. 20.

Second, individuals in the United States without legal immigration status still have constitutionally protected rights. In most cases, these include the right to a hearing before an immigration judge prior to being removed (deported) from the United States. If immigration enforcement increases and you or someone you know is placed in removal proceedings, there will likely be time to seek legal representation and explore options for removal defense well before a final order is entered that could result in removal (deportation) from the U.S.

Third, there are operational limitations that will likely limit the scope and breadth of proposals to increase immigration enforcement and deportations. Although President-Elect Trump ran on a platform favoring mass deportation policies, this will not likely occur without a significant increase in funding to expand enforcement capacity, which requires Congress to pass legislation.

Notwithstanding the above, we recognize that immigration law and policy will change, potentially drastically, in the near future. Although the specifics of these changes and time frame are largely unknown, it would be most prudent for individuals who currently do not have legal status to take this time (between now and any upcoming changes) to explore and pursue any immigration options that are legally available to them under current law.

In closing, the most sensible advice at this moment is: a) don’t panic, as changes to immigration law are not immediate; and b) if you have a path available to pursue legalizing your status in the United States, now is the time to pursue it.

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