AUSTIN – Because President Donald Trump's administration sent out directives to put in place mass-deportation executive orders on Feb. 21, University of Texas Austin clinical law professor Elissa Steglich told The Record via email that the state of Texas has taken a major hit.
"The current administration issued three executive orders on immigration shortly after inauguration – on border enforcement, interior enforcement, and restrictions on refugee resettlement, travel and immigration from certain Muslim majority countries," Steglich said. "After facing immediate legal challenges in the courts, the administration issued a revised order on refugees and travel and immigration restrictions. All of these orders and the subsequent actions of the various executive agencies involved in implementation have a tremendous impact on Texas.
The travel ban had immediate impact on communities and businesses in Texas. The state has historically received the highest numbers of resettled refugees who make significant contributions to the state. Additionally, we saw unnecessary enforcement actions at hub airports in Houston and Dallas. Even though most pieces of the travel ban were stayed by the courts, the perception of the United States and Texas as an unwelcome place for immigrants can chill international business and academic growth."
Steglich added that Trump's administration has also added hassle to a rough journey for immigrants to become legal citizens.
"Immigration law, as passed by Congress, is already quite restrictive in the ways an individual can obtain status," Steglich said. "The path to a green card and then on to US citizenship is arduous and can be very expensive. In many respects, the process is already too cost- and skills-prohibitive for many deserving immigrants. Since January, this administration has only made the path more difficult. While the president cannot change the law, this administration has already put in place practices and policies that make relief elusive. As an example, since late January, bona fide refugees seeking protection at our borders are being turned away, despite the obligation under the law for officers to accept applications. These same refugees are being detained at taxpayer expense for longer periods of time without reason. Many of the humanitarian visa programs for victims of violent crime who are cooperating with law enforcement in the US as well as the asylum program are experiencing multiple-year long delays. I anticipate that this administration will only further reduce resources for these programs and add to the wait times."
Steglich said she has already seen more immigrants being deported.
"The administration engaged in increased enforcement actions in Austin and San Antonio soon after the executive orders were issued," she said. "The Department of Homeland Security just contracted with the for-profit prison corporation GEO Group to operate a 1,000-bed detention center in Conroe, Texas. The administration has made commitments to increase the number of immigration judges as well as border patrol and ICE officers and to utilize expedited procedures that short-cut around judicial review to the fullest extent possible. We are already seeing the reassignment of immigration judges to prioritize cases of detained immigrants, without regard to whether the immigrants have access to counsel to assist them in the process."
Steglich also sees Trump's executive orders on immigration making America a less-attractive destination for immigrants.
"The general tone of the administration will undoubtedly chill voluntary immigration," Steglich said. "I imagine that we will see fewer international students, fewer international academics, and fewer businesses interested in moving to the United States. Sadly, the administration has not signaled any interested in addressing the root causes of violence in Central America and elsewhere, which is the driving force of displacement and immigration. The policies will do little to address forced migration and will certainly make the lives of those coming to the United States seeking protection more traumatic."