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Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Policies: Not Just for the Undocumented

First, they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.-Pastor Martin Niemoller

Then they came…

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, (USCIS), announced a new policy on June 28, 2018. This policy has received virtually no media coverage, and yet it may be the most harmful of the Trump anti-immigration policies.

The policy says non-citizens who apply for a benefit – such as an extension or change of status, a green card, or citizenship – would be placed in deportation proceedings if that benefit is denied.

There will be a Prosecutorial Review Panel that may, in exceptional cases, decide it’s not in the government’s interest to refer a case to deportation. This changes the long-standing policy that the USCIS is primarily an agency that makes decisions about benefits. The new policy thrusts the organization fully into the folds of the Trump deportation machine.

While the USCIS has always had some authority to initiate deportation proceedings, the last policy guidance on deportation (issued in November 2011) centered on criminals, fraud, and other negative eligibility indicators. That guidance has been canned. This new policy drastically expands the categories of “enforcement priority,” potentially snagging anyone trying to navigate the system.

Under this new policy, merely being denied the request for a visa extension or change, green card application, or naturalization can put an applicant at risk of deportation as much as being caught in the country illegally. Once in deportation proceedings, non-citizens must defend themselves against the deportation charges. Depending on the reason for the application denial, they may also be subjected to detention.

In deportation (removal) proceedings, the person won’t be provided a lawyer. He or she must represent himself or herself or hire a lawyer. Some may not be eligible for a bond. If they are eligible, they could still be denied a bond. The deportation hearing (trial) will be held before an immigration judge rather than a jury. The immigrant must prove why they should not be deported rather than the U.S. government proving why the immigrant should be deported.

While there aren’t any statistics about the percentage of immigrants who win their cases in deportation proceedings, we can infer much from the numbers of those deported. In 2017, ICE reported over 225,000 physical deportations.

Who will be affected, and how will the policy be implemented?

We simply don’t know. The policy gives USCIS wide range to use the new policy. For example, say you’re married to a U.S. citizen and are applying for permanent residence. You’re suddenly diagnosed with kidney failure. Your application could be denied under public charge even if you or your spouse have ne