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With Nielsen Stepping Down, President Trump Considers Tougher Immigration Enforcement Policies

In recent months, U.S. Department of Homeland Securities (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have started to push back from President Trump’s demands, some of which required the crossing of legal limitations and constitutional protections.


On April 7, 2019, Kirstjen Nielsen, DHS Secretary, announced her resignation after meeting with President Donald Trump. According to reports by the New York Times, in recent weeks prior to her resignation, the President had asked Ms. Neilsen to close entry points along the border and stop accepting asylum seekers. Recently, President Trump has repeatedly expressed anger at the rise of migrants at the southwest border which had reached 103,000 – the highest number in over a decade. Ms. Neilsen found the action ineffective and inappropriate.


Throughout Mr. Trump’s presidency, Neilsen frequently faced pressure from President Trump to be more aggressive with immigration enforcement actions, some of which were illegal. She repeatedly noted the limitations imposed on the DHS by federal laws, court rulings, and international obligations. However, her responses only infuriated the President further, according to the Times. Although the April 7 meeting was cordial, according to reports, the President was determined for Ms. Neilsen to hand in her resignation. Following the meeting, she submitted it.


Three days following Ms. Neilsen’s announcement, ICE Acting Director Ron Vitiello announced that he would be stepping down from his position as well. Mr. Vitiello’s statement came days after President Trump pulled his nomination to lead the agency in a permanent position, stating that he wanted to go in a “tougher” direction. But in a nation that has already enacted “tough” immigration policies under the current administration, what does the future hold for non-citizens in the U.S.?


According to NPR, the Trump administration is currently discussing new and harsher methods of immigration enforcement, including reinstating a version of migrant family separation and ramping up the deportation of non-citizens already living in the U.S. who have an outstanding order of removal.


Although President Trump recently stated that he is not looking to bring back the controversial family separation that he suspended last year, White House officials are looking into a variation of the policy called a “binary choice” proposal. The “binary choice” proposal would let parents choose between having their children separated from them and released to a U.S. relative or sponsor to live with or the family can remain together in detention until their immigration hearing. According to NPR, critics say that the proposal is cruel and likely to be challenged in court.


In addition, the Trump administration is seeking a stricter screening process for non-citizens seeking asylum in the U.S. that would make it more difficult for them to pass the first stage of the credible-fear interview, the first stage of the process. Currently, most asylum-seekers can pass the credible-fear interview and then permitted to live in the U.S. while their case is pending.


According to NPR, the White House has been pushing for stricter immigration enforcement policies that would make it easier for asylum-seekers living in the U.S. to be detained and deported. However, Congress has yet to act on the matter, and the previous attempts by the Trump administration have failed.


With immigration policies rapidly changing under the Trump administration, it is important that non-citizens living in the U.S. seek the guidance of an experienced immigration lawyer who can advise them on pathways to citizenship and protect their rights during the process. The lawyers at Bretz & Coven, LLP are experienced in representing New York and New Jersey residents in various immigration matters, including asylum applications, deportation defense, and visa applications. To schedule a consultation with our New York immigration lawyers, call (212) 267-2555.

Immigration Consequences of Criminal and Fraudulent Conduct
The immigration consequences of criminal or fraudulent conduct can be harsh and often illogical. Even a very minor offense could have a dramatic immigration consequence, including deportation, detention without bond, being denied naturalization, a visa or re-entry into the United States. Likewise, the use of fake or fraudulent documents, aliases, and other misrepresentations can have similar immigration consequences. Kerry Bretz and Bretz & Coven have been counseling non-citizen criminal defendants, as well as their lawyers, for over 20 years. We have a long history of strategizing deportation and removal defenses, as well as applications for waivers, in very complicated cases.

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