As the new year dawns, most of us reflect where we’re headed, individually and collectively. Internal strength and resolve are once again at a premium, if our positive thoughts and words are to be turned into actions.
Countless resolutions, based on ideal visions of ourselves in the future, are projected for the year to come.
Unfortunately, when it comes to immigration, optimism is missing in action.
The Happy New Year ended when the clock struck midnight at Times Square.
From my vantage point as an Hemet immigration lawyer, it appears that far too many of those active in immigration circles are caught up in a “feel sorry for myself” moment.
Centered on a new president who has articulated strong law enforcement measures about to take office, the “doom and gloom” sentiments of immigrants and their advocates are deafening.
Now is not the time to sit still and do nothing. Now is the time to plan ahead, to take disaster prevention steps in case, just in case, the worse of all possible immigration worlds comes to pass.
History Beckons: A Quirky Outcome Of The Reagan Years
I won’t be surprised if some positive measures are sprinkled between acts of rigid law enforcement actions during the reign of the new administration.
Of course, I’m not holding my breath.
However, there is some historical precedent.
When Ronald Reagan was elected, like most civil rights advocates, my reaction was largely negative. Yet, the last “pro-immigrant” reform took place under his watch.
Granted, it was hailed as a necessary economic initiative. It nonetheless opened the doors for many immigrant families to take advantage of the opportunity to seek legal benefits.
It did not, of course, go far enough in securing compassionate or comprehensive immigration reform. No immigration package, floated through Congress, will ever go far enough in that regard.
It is conceivable, though far-fetched at the present moment, the same type of quirky outcome will occur under President Trump.
Politics has a long history of strange bedfellows . . . and of should-be allies turning into opponents.
Should this scenario become a possible reality, I would not be startled if Democrats, for future political campaign reasons, endeavor to derail such legislation.
Ah, politics . . .
The Age Of Immigration Darkness Returns? Did It Ever Leave?
Whenever I speak to the doomers and gloomers, I ask them to pause for a moment and reflect back to the world of immigration prior to 2009 and 2013.
What has really changed in immigration law since that time? In the majority of my cases, my office helps immigrants under the same regulations and procedures today that existed back then.
We won cases – tough cases, difficult cases – during the Bush-Cheney-Ashcroft years, and during the early Obama years of massive deportations.
We’ll continue to fight them during the Trump Administration . . . using the same rules that have existed since the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 turned immigration law on its head.
To be clear, I do not relish tackling such equally intense battles over the next four years, but what must be done . . . will be done.
I am not alone in this perspective.
One deportation defense difference between 15 – 20 years ago and today is there are more immigration warriors this time around.
Most likely, there are not enough to cover all the skirmishes which will arise. But with the growth of the pro-immigrant bar during the past decade, we should be sufficient to keep the flames of reform alive until the 46th President of the United States takes office in 2021.
The Danger Of Immigration
And Political Fantasy
I have not written much in the past two months. My personal penchant for assessing and discussing current events has been thrown out of whack due to the persistent media focus on the new president.
For many reporters, it seems almost nothing else matters. Worse, their myopic focus, dramatizing negative aspects of the Trump immigration agenda, has amplified the fears of immigrant communities across the nation.
It’s as if the goblins of immigration reform pessimism are everywhere present.
Throughout November and December, my office fielded an inordinate amount of calls, most of which wanted quick answers to their vague descriptions of their personal situations and swift assurances of immigration safety.
The practice of immigration law – real immigration law – does not operate in such a manner.
To adequately address the worries of immigrant families, given the uncertainties of Trump’s immigration agenda, requires more than a fleeting five minute conversation.
Yet, too many remain glued to television, radio, and smart phone snippets of incomplete information, rather than engage in personalized planning and strategy consultation sessions.
This is not the way to prepare for anticipated immigration changes.
Some feel that efforts by local governments to provide funds and churches to provide sanctuaries will be all that is needed to protect them.
Maybe they’re right. Maybe they’re wrong.
Because there is a potential for error, it seems immigrants at risk would not only seek, but also desire as much guidance as possible.
Preventive measures at the public level are not a true substitute for pro-active planning at the personal level.
Heaven help those living in a fantasy world that someday the waters will part, and a path to lawful residency will magically appear to rescue them from angry nativists.
A Quick Glance Into The Trump
I do not presume that I know the new president’s initial moves.
To say the least, Trump is unpredictable.
What I do know is that I’ll be assisting many folks with laws dating back to the late 1990s. The contours of some immigration battles will be new. The weapons of defense will likely remain the same.
That said, here are a few key items to watch over the course of the next few years. For if the Age of Trump is as horrific as advertised, the election in 2020 will be about political rollback for many immigrant programs:
Building A Southwestern United States Border Wall: Although I perceive this as a symbolic issue, it is not one which will go away quietly or quickly. Making Mexico pay for it is unrealistic. Thus, this issue will require Congressional input.
But if Congress attempts to pass new legislation to support the building of a border wall, I suspect this will become a long verbally agitated battle, sucking a lot of media attention. In the end, this issue may result in other, less expensive measures to fighting the influx of new illegal entrants, like increasing the number of border patrol agents.
Deportation Policy Shift: On the one hand, it is difficult to think about deportation policy “shifting” from the approach taken under the Obama Administration. However, during the past three years, the president initiated a series of temporary measures (which did not lead to permanent residency) to protect certain groups of immigrants.
The most commonly cited is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. It is possible that the Trump Administration will seek stricter law enforcement policies against DACA receipients. But even lesser-mentioned areas of law like Temporary Protected Status (TPS), Violence Against Women (VAWA), and Asylum could become major battle grounds.
A New Ban On Muslims: This is another area where it is not clear what the Trump Administration will implement. A systemic ban on Muslims borders on violations of due process and other constitutional issues, issues which could take several years to resolve. The further such a program extends beyond mere investigation, the more likely issues of racial, religious, and culture discrimination will surface.
Family Unity Immigration: During Obama’s second term, an immigration reform package was debated for several months by the House and Senate before it finally died. In that bill, minimized and ignored by immigrant advocates, it was proposed certain family immigration categories pertaining to adult children, as well as to brothers and sisters, of U.S. citizens would have been scrapped.
I would not be surprised if the family unity system undergoes similar attacks by the new administration. The idea of eliminating “chain migration” has been part of xenophobic opposition since the Immigration and Nationality Act was given birth in 1965.
Seven Tips For Success In The Age Of Trump
Anyway, on a more positive note, I would like to share a post that I recently read from one of my favorite bloggers, Jon Morrow. He is not an immigration blogger.
He has made millions with his writings. Yet, he can only move his eyes and lips. His hands, feet, arms, and legs are almost totally paralyzed. He uses voice recognition technology.
In late December, he wrote “7 Life Lessons from a Guy Who Can’t Move Anything but His Face.”
The article is well worth reading by all, especially for those immigrants and their advocates who find themselves feeling overwhelmed by feeling of adversity. Here is a brief summary of Morrow’s main points:
Lesson 1: If You Can’t Win The Game, Change The Rules
The options to you right now may be hopeless, but you can always create new ones. It’s not easy, but if you’re strong enough, you can turn any situation to your advantage.
Lesson 2: Pain Is Power
At some point or another, life punches everyone in the face.
The punch may be hard, or it may be soft, but it’s definitely coming, and your success or failure is largely determined by the answer to a single question: how well can you take the punch? Do you roll around on the ground, weeping and moaning? Do you rock back on your heels but then keep going?
Lesson #3: The Secret To Survival
The people who struggle most are the ones who can’t accept the incessant unfairness of life. They become so consumed with what should have happened, the way other people should have behaved that they become incapable of dealing with reality.
A lot of people view acceptance as weakness. They think that, if they accept what’s happened to them, they’ll be admitting defeat.
But it’s the opposite. It’s only by acknowledging reality that you can create a plan to change that reality. Acceptance, as it turns out, is the first step to victory.
Lesson 4: The Art Of The Counterpunch
In life, every difficulty carries with it a corresponding opportunity of equal size.
No matter how bad the situation, no matter how hopeless it seems, there is always an opportunity to turn it to your advantage. You just have to discipline yourself to spot the opening, and then find the courage to use it.
Lesson 5: How To Find The Courage To Face Anything
The people we think of as heroes don’t have a mystical ability to transcend fear. To them, the alternative to taking action is simply unacceptable. They do what needs to be done, not because they want to, but because they feel there is no other choice.
Lesson 6: Embrace The Crazy
We’re so used to evaluating options on their own merits that we become paralyzed in situations where all the options are bad.
The solution is to train yourself to at least acknowledge the crazy alternatives. Whenever you’re making a decision, ask yourself, “What are the options I’m not considering because they seem too crazy?” You don’t have to choose the crazy option, but you should still train yourself to recognize it, because there might come a day when you need it.
Lesson 7: Never, Never, Never Give Up
Sooner or later, we all reach a point in life where our trials become unbearable. Determination turns to despair, self-confidence becomes self-pity, and our hope for a better tomorrow dwindles and dies, replaced by a grim certainty that our life is over.
But it’s not. We simply need someone to remind us that triumph over adversity isn’t about being the strongest or the smartest, the “perfect” human being who can overcome anything life throws at them. On the contrary, the greatest victories are won by the weakest people, living in the darkest times, facing monsters that make even the stoutest heroes cower and run.
And yet they prevail. Not through riches or genius or even luck, but by setting their jaw, bracing their feet, and weathering the storm. They don’t defeat misfortune; they outlast it, clinging stubbornly to their spot, absorbing blow after blow, roaring their defiance into the wind until their lips crack and their voice breaks, and yet still they find the strength to whisper, “I will never, ever give up.”
You can be one of those people. I know you can, and so I came here to tell you…
Today, you might feel too poor or sick or unlucky to reach for your dreams, but you’re not.
Today, you might feel too tired or depressed or sad to even try, but you’re not.
Today, you might feel like an outcast, forgotten by your friends or family or anyone who might help you, but again, you are not.
You’re still breathing, my friend. That’s all it takes to stage a comeback.
So, say it with me now, would you?
“I will never, ever give up.”
Say it. Believe it.
And then recognize you’ve begun the journey to becoming totally unstoppable.
“I will never, ever give up.”
Say it. Believe it.
And then recognize you’ve begun the journey to becoming totally unstoppable.
Even in the Age of Trump.
By Carlos Batara, Immigration Law, Policy, And Politics