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Three obstacles preventing immigration enforcement changes

During his campaign, President-elect Trump repeatedly vowed to deport "illegal immigrants" and promised that he would fight any path to amnesty or a path to citizenship. Later on in the campaign, the Republican presidential candidate toned down his rhetoric, promising to focus on immigrants without legal documentation facing criminal charges or with a criminal conviction.

But how quickly, and how many, of those campaign promises will the Trump Administration fulfill?

Significant hurdles remain in deporting large numbers of immigrants

The quick deportation of millions of immigrants in the U.S. without current legal documentation faces many significant obstacles. It is estimated that approximately 11 million people are in the U.S. who could be subject to deportation (also known as removal proceedings). Finding and initiating deportation proceedings for that many people would require a massive effort and expense.

The three main hurdles to the Trump Administrations' vows to deport 11 million immigrants include:

  • Long wait times in US immigration court for removal proceedings
  • Obtaining congressional approval to increase spending on enforcement
  • Fighting "sanctuary cities" which do not enforce current federal immigration law

What are sanctuary cities?

Sanctuary cities throughout the U.S. have instructed local law enforcement to ignore the immigration status of the public. This is in direct contradiction to federal law, one reason why California recently hired former Attorney General Eric Holder to counsel California on how and when it can combat federal laws which conflict with California state law.

The DACA problem

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, began in 2012 on the initiative of the Obama Administration. This program is a unique immigration status that allows otherwise undocumented immigrants to legally remain in the U.S., but does not provide a path to citizenship. In order to obtain DACA status, however, immigrants had to provide residential information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Because it was an executive action, President-elect Trump could reverse this policy and begin targeting immigrants who have provided their addresses.

However, it is important to note that there is no clear indication that this is the intention of the Trump Administration.


Immigration law is complex at the best of times. For immigrants in the U.S. concerned about their immigration status, this is not the best of times. If you have questions, contact an experienced immigration lawyer to discuss your situation and options.

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