Executive Orders on Immigration Issues

The following are summaries of the executive orders that have been signed by Trump or are pending. Check back regularly for updates.

Information as of January 26, 2017

Executive Order to Withhold Federal Funds from Sanctuary Cities

Status: Signed

What It Does:

“Sanctuary cities” are cities or other localities that have laws or policies in place to prevent a blurred line between local law enforcement and immigration enforcement. When police are seen as no different than ICE, it can be a major deterrent to cooperation and mutual respect between police and immigrant communities, making undocumented residents less likely to report a crime or seek help, less likely to cooperate with an investigation even as a witness, and undermines their right to feel safe and respected in the city where they live and work. These policies range from preventing a police officer from inquiring about the immigration status of someone they’re interacting with to refusing to honor an order of detention and deportation by ICE for an immigrant under arrest over a local matter. By this definition, nearly every city with a CIR hospital is a sanctuary city.

This new order:

  • Dramatically expands the scope of immigrants ICE should pursue, detain, and deport to any immigrant that has been convicted, charged, or has committed a chargeable offense — including being undocumented in the first place or any offense related to being undocumented (like driving a car without a license) — OR any immigrant who an agent feels is a “risk to public safety or national security,” even if they haven’t done anything yet.
  • Makes it federal policy for state and local law enforcement to be “empowered” to perform the functions of an immigration officer
  • Requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to seek agreements with state and local officials to allow state and local law enforcement to act as immigration officials on top of their existing duties.
  • Allows the Secretary to define a non-compliant states and cities as a “sanctuary jurisdiction.”
  • The Attorney General is then empowered to take “appropriate enforcement action” against any state or local jurisdiction that is not complying with requests from INS about immigration status of the individuals it comes into contact with, including police forces. This includes fines and other penalties against a city or state by the federal government.
  • Any jurisdiction labeled a “sanctuary jurisdiction” would not be eligible for any federal grants for any purpose “except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes”

That last point is unprecedented. Nearly one tenth of the budget from New York City is filled by federal grants each year, to the tune of $7 billion dollars. For example, federal dollars account for the vouchers that sustain over 39,000 low-income tenants, the entire operation of Child Protective Services, and the entirety of the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment program run by the City’s Department of Health.

What’s the Timeframe?

The Secretary has a year to attempt to make arrangements with states and cities not already in compliance. After that, he could label them sanctuary jurisdictions. Defunding could begin anytime after that, either through another act of Congress or another, more explicit Executive Order. However, either one would absolutely be challenged by cities or states as unconstitutional, kicking off a legal fight that could potentially take years.

Executive Order to Repeal DACA

Status: Draft, still under legal review.

What It Does:

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was established through Executive Order by President Obama. It allowed for a renewable two-year status where an immigrant wouldn’t be deported and would be eligible for a work permit. Eligible immigrants had to have been brought to the US before the age of 16, have no criminal record, be currently in school, a high school graduate, or honorably discharged from the military. About 750,000 immigrants received DACA status under President Obama, about half of whom live in either California or Texas. There are several medical students and residents who have DACA status currently.

The new order:

  • Ends that program. No new applications or renewals will be processed.
  • Those currently in the middle of the two-year status will retain their relief from deportation and their work permit until their current status expires. Once it does, that’s it – no renewals.
  • Ends a similar program, DAPA, for undocumented parents. That program had accepted applications but not issued any permits because of a court challenge to its legality. This order permanently ends it.
  • No mention is made of how DACA or DAPA records are to be used – or not – in terms of the future deportation work of ICE.

Executive Order to Prevent Immigrants and Those on Visa from Using Public Benefits, Even If They’re Here Legally

Status: Draft, still under legal review

What It Does:

Currently some people on visas and legal immigrants can qualify for some taxpayer funded benefits. Undocumented immigrants, particularly children, also qualify for some publicly funded benefits, though less frequently involving federal dollars. Under current law, the federal government can bar someone from entering the US or getting a green card if it can demonstrate they’re likely to become a “public charge” by virtue of their use of public benefits. Generally the threshold is being a TANF/welfare recipient but not using Medicaid or CHIP.

The new order:

  • Redefines a “public charge” to include any income-based benefit, including Medicaid or CHIP
  • In addition to current tactics, such immigrants on visas labelled a public charge can now be expelled.
  • The sponsors for any visa holder or immigrants found to be a public charge are now liable for paying the government back for the cost of the benefits used (how that would be repaid is unspecified).
  • Various agencies are reported to make annual or semi-annual reports on how much money goes to benefits for immigrants, how likely it is that any immigrants or visa holders are fraudulently receiving benefits, how immigrants may or may not be undermining Social Security, and what reinvesting that money in benefits for American citizens might look like.
  • Various agencies are required to begin the process of issuing formal rules to tighten up eligibility to prevent fraudulent applications or use for federal benefits.
  • The Director of the Office of Management and Budget is required to figure out how $100 billion can be saved by such tightening (presumably for a future budget).

How are patients affected?

Usually the end result of making it harder to obtain benefits like Medicaid and CHIP is that it sweeps up those completely eligible as much or more than those who may be a risk to fraud because the documentation requirements or difficulty of the application become too much. At that income level, those who won’t be getting Medicaid won’t be getting anything else, creating barriers to their accessing healthcare

Executive Order to Build a Wall Between the U.S. and Mexico

Status: Signed

What It Does:

  • Directs Homeland Security to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico
  • Directs Homeland Security to move around money in its existing budget to begin building the wall right away, with the assumption that Mexico will eventually reimburse the U.S. government for it.
  • Changes how immigrants apprehended attempting a border crossing are to be treated. Under current law, there are a few options to be applied with discretion, given a large number of those apprehended are either children or applying for refugee status. Now there will be two options – deport immediately or detain and then deport.