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Timeline of Trump administration’s ‘Zero Tolerance’ immigration policy

Since entering the White House, the President has modified immigration law through executive orders and memorandums that lack support from Congress, putting 11 million immigrants on the verge of deportation.
26 Sep 2018 – 11:46 AM EDT
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The goal of Donald Trump’s immigration reform is tied to his campaign promises, which include building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and deporting approximately 11 million illegal immigrants from the country.

Nearly 20 months after arriving into the White House, Trump has been able to put a stop to millions of immigrants looking for ways to legalize their status in the U. S., extend their temporary worker visas, join their families in the states, find asylum from life-threatening situations in their home countries—due to violence, poverty or war—, and most recently, increased the eligibility requirements for granting residency and citizenship.

The Head of State has not requested Congress support to implement his harsh immigration policy, even when both chambers are controlled by Republicans. There is only one reason for this: not everyone in his party support his ideas. Some, such as Senators Jeff Flake (Arizona), Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), Cory Gardner (Colorado) and John McCain (Arizona)—up until his death— have rejected the President’s standpoint because, they argue, it does not include the 11 million illegal immigrants; dreamers among them.

However, the objections and support from some Republicans to bipartisan proposals on immigration reform have been dismissed by White House senior advisors, among them Stephen Miller, a well-known anti-immigrant who is opposed to any type of change that opens the door to regularizing the status of illegal immigrants.

Trump’s Reform

Trump’s immigration policy denies permanent legalization to any group of illegal immigrants unless Congress agrees with him on a solution for dreamers. The other condition is the approval of funding to build the wall on the Mexico border.

Trump lost the most recent debate on this topic last March. Even though he failed, the President does not yield and has discovered that he can carry on with his project in the same way that Barack Obama did (and which he criticized during his campaign): through memorandums and executive orders.

Here are the main decrees, memos and instructions signed by Trump since he came to power. These are detailed on the White House’s website.

Executive order against sanctuary cities
Decrees that illegal presence represents a threat to public and national security and determines new deportation priorities, among others.

Executive order regarding the border wall
Establishes fast-track deportations and strengthens requests for asylum, among other measures.

Executive order regarding the entry of Muslims
Bans the entry of Muslim citizens into the U.S. and orders the suspension of the refugee admissions program.

Memorandum from DHS Secretary
Guidelines to implement Trump’s executive orders.

| APRIL 18
Executive Order to review the H-1B visa program
Prompts the “Buy American, Hire American” policy.

| JULY 28
War on MARA MS-13
Trump uses the war against the Mara Salvatrucha (M-13) to justify his immigration policy.

Republican plan for immigration reform
Trump announces his support to bill S.354, from Republican Senators Tom Cotton (Arkansas) and David Perdue (Georgia). The plan was based on the President’s immigration principles: increase arrests, speed deportations, restrict refugee asylum, establish an immigration system based on merits and reducing illegal immigration by 50% in 10 years.

Trump presents his immigration reform goals
“I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible, as long as we focus on the following goals: to improve the jobs and wages for Americans, to strengthen our nation’s security, and to restore respect for our laws,” said the President.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions cancels the 2012 American immigration policy DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).

Donald Trump cuts in half the annual refugee quota.

Sanctuary cities
The government threatens to cut federal funds to sanctuary cities.

Trump’s immigration policy goals
Trump sends a letter to Congress leaders detailing the goals of his immigration policy. He demands to build the wall on the Mexico border, asks to increase raids, arrests and deportations of illegal immigrants; increases punishments for illegal entry to the U.S., limits refugee protection and establishes an immigration system based on merits, among other restrictions. Does not include benefits for illegal immigrants.

Executive order regarding asylum
Trump reduces the entry quota for refugees.

Immigration pillars
White House publishes a list of Trump’s immigration pillars. It includes a way to legalize 1.8 million dreamers in exchange for $25,000 million to implement border security plans, among them building the wall on the border with Mexico.

Pressure for an immigration reform
White House says it is time to end the damages caused by the actual immigration system and asks for approval on the President’s plan.

Sanctuary cities
Trump accuses sanctuary cities of protecting criminals.

| MARCH 13
Border wall
Trump visits prototypes for the border wall in San Diego.

Deployment of the U.S. National Guard at the border
Trump orders the deployment of the National Guard on the Mexico border.

End of the ‘Catch and Release’ policy
Trump asks the Department of Defense to find centers to detain illegal immigrants and expedite deportations.

Trump’s arguments

Since early in his campaign, Trump promised his followers that he would deport the 11 million illegal immigrants within an 18-month period and that he would build a wall along the border with Mexico, which the southern neighbor would pay for.

Up until now, he has not changed his mind. Although Trump seemed to give way at some point (towards the end of January) during the debates about the future of DACA in Congress (offering to grant citizenship status to the 1.8 million dreamers in exchange for $25,000 million to implement his aggressive immigration policy) his strategy remains the same.

Congress did not buy into his offer to legalize dreamers. Instead, it granted him $1,600 million to repair current sections of the border wall and slightly increased the budget that finances the deportation machinery inherited from his predecessor Barack Obama. These resources, however, are not enough for Trump.

Immigration pillars

Trump assures that immigration has created turmoil in the United States and demands immediate actions to reestablish order. He paints the scenario as a country at war, but only his supporters perceive the alleged conflict and the White House has no way of showing the crisis that the President is trying to sell.

“The United States must adopt an immigration system that serves the national interest,” reads the government website. “To restore the rule of law and secure our border, President Trump is committed to constructing a border wall and ensuring the swift removal of unlawful entrants.”

It adds that, “to protect American workers, Trump supports ending chain migration, eliminating the Visa Lottery and moving to a merit-based entry system.”

“These reforms will advance the safety and prosperity of all Americans while helping new citizens assimilate and flourish.”

Nowhere in the text does Trump mention needing Congress to change the current Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, enacted by Lyndon B. Johnson and which came into effect on June 30, 1968. He wants to do it on his own, through decrees and memos from the Oval office desk.

Additional measures

Besides executive orders and memos, the Trump administration has implemented another set of measures, such as:

Arrest of illegal immigrants
Trump wants to expand the capacity to detain illegal immigrants and those who have committed crimes.

Mobilization of the National Guard
Trump considers mobilizing 10,000 National Guard troops to deport thousands of illegal immigrants.

| MARCH 16
Trump asks for $80 million to expedite deportations.

| MARCH 20
List of crimes
Trump publishes the first list of alleged crimes perpetrated by immigrants.

| APRIL 12
Punishments increase
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announces severe punishments for illegal re-entry. Also warns of sanctions against those who help illegal immigrants and strengthens the requirements to grant asylum.

| JUNE 6
Trial reopening
ICE confirms the reopening of closed deportation cases.

Sharing data with ICE
ICE admits to sharing data on TPS immigrants.

Nicaragua TPS
The Trump administration ends the Nicaragua TPS.

Cases re-opened
The Department of Justice reopens thousands of closed immigration cases to expedite deportations.

El Salvador TPS
Trump cancels El Salvador’s TPS.

The government reviews 315,000 citizenships through naturalization.

Bipartisan immigration plan
Trump rejects the bipartisan immigration plan that included a solution for dreamers.

A year of war
Trump serves his first year at the White House fighting a relentless war against immigrants.

Trump’s plan
Six dangers of President Trump’s immigration plan.

“Poisonous snakes”
Trump refers to immigrants as “poisonous snakes.”

Trump deports more immigrants than Obama ever did, according to ICE data.

| MARCH 21
National deportation force strengthens
The number of police agencies collaborating with the government to arrest illegal immigrants grows.

| MARCH 29
Reverse court rulings
Sessions seeks to reverse court rulings from judges who have stopped 200,000 deportation cases.

| MARCH 30
Social media
The government will examine the social media accounts of foreigners requesting a U.S. visa.

Fees for judges
Attorney General imposes fees onto immigration judges.

Reduced immigration plan
The White House drafts an immigration reform shorter than the version presented during the DACA debate.

Aid program cancelled
Government cancels legal aid for illegal immigrants.

| APRIL 13
"Catch and release"
The White House publishes a memorandum that ends the ‘catch and release’ policy.

| APRIL 17
Green card waiver
Legal immigrants who stay too long outside of the United States are offered to sign Form I-407, a green card waiver.

| APRIL 24
Asylum cases expedited
The Trump administration expedites asylum cases to give immigrants less time to prepare their cases.

| APRIL 26
Criminal charges
Government officials lobby to press criminal charges against immigrants who cross the border.

| MAY 7
Forceful separations
Jeff Sessions threatens with separating children from their parents when they cross the border.

| MAY 8
Honduras TPS
The Trump administration cancels Honduras’ TPS.

| MAY 9
Zero tolerance
The government announces its new zero tolerance policy on the border.

| MAY 11
Worker visas
The government scrutinizes H-1B and H-2B worker visas.

| MAY 12
Student visas
The government toughens visa conditions for foreign students.

| MAY 15
Prisons on military bases
The Trump administration prepares military bases to send immigrant children detained on the border.

| MAY 18
Less power for judges
Sessions forbids judges from archiving deportation cases of immigrants without a history.

| MAY 21
Mandatory documents
Trump’s immigration policy mandates that everyone in the U.S. should carry their documents.

| MAY 27
Merit-based immigration
Being too old or not self-sufficient enough could affect immigrants in the future.

| JUNE 10
Zero tolerance
Judges warn that zero tolerance on the border will have huge consequences.

| JUNE 12
Donald Trump’s government denies asylum due to domestic violence.

| JUNE 22
Forceful separations
Chaos and confusion to reunite children forcefully separated from their families on the border.

| JUNE 24
Immediate deportations
Trump wants immediate deportations, without courts or judges.

| JULY 5
Working permits
Sessions eliminates the rule that granted working permits to refugees.

| JULY 12
The government implements new asylum rules.

Social programs
Trump considers denying citizenship, or the green card, to legal immigrants who have used social programs.

Foreign students
Trump hardens penalties for foreign students who have stayed illegally.

Sharing information
USCIS shares information with ICE to locate and deport immigrants.

Deportations protocol
Jeff Sessions informs judges of the new standard to deport immigrants.

Flores settlement
The government announces its withdrawal from the 1997 Flores settlement.

Public charge
New “public charge” ruling threatens to deny residency and citizenships.

Total discretion
USCIS grants total discretion to its agents, to deny cases.

Limiting judicial power
Sessions seeks to limit judges’ power to prevent them from stopping orders at a national scale.

More limits for judges
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announces a new regulation that leaves immigration judges with only one option for cases pending deportation.

Public charge
DHS announces a new “public charge” regulation that limits residencies and citizenships to immigrants who benefit from public assistance.