The Christmas US government shutdown is just a taste of the immigration fight to come.
For years, Congress has been unable to reach an agreement on comprehensive immigration reform. As a result, the executive and judicial branches as well as state and municipal governments have borne the burden of dealing with the many immigration questions the US faces. National debate has mostly centered on what to do about illegal immigration in the US, with questions over the DACA program, ICE, southern border security, sanctuary cities, and other issues dominating discussions this past year.
President Donald Trump was elected on promises to take extraordinary action on illegal immigration coming from Latin America. His administration has attempted to implement plans on funding and building a wall on the US-Mexican border, mass deportations of illegal immigrants, and temporarily banning citizens of multiple Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.
PERCEPTIONS OF A CHANGING AMERICAN LANDSCAPE
About 14% of the US population are immigrants, or more than 43 million people out of a total of about 323 million. While one poll has suggested that 71% of Americans consider immigration a “good thing” for the US, many American conservatives and backers of President Trump have argued that a “flood” of illegal immigrants into the country in recent years has posed a serious economic and national security threat.
Anti-illegal immigration sentiments have been fueled by the perception that the number of such migrants exponentially increased under Barack Obama. In fact, statistics suggest that the number of illegal immigrants gradually decreased from 2008, owing in part to improved economic situations in developing countries and less attractive prospects in the US after the financial crisis. The Trump administration has suggested that the 26% drop in the number of people apprehended or stopped at the southern border is due to its policies to curb the practice.
Regardless, the US is host to a significant number of illegal migrants: an estimated eleven million.
COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM: PARTISAN ROADBLOCKS
With partisan sentiments in the US showing no sign of abating and Democrats eager to take back control of the House of Representatives and challenge President Trump, it is unlikely 2019 will see the long desired comprehensive agreement on immigration reform in Congress.
Once again, it is likely the Trump administration will continue to take unilateral executive action in an effort to further crack down on illegal immigration. Actions might include applying more pressure on Congress to fund the border wall, expanding the US military presence on the US-Mexican border, more diplomatic pressure on the Latin American countries where these migrants are mostly coming from, and more federal regulations to pressure local governments to turn in illegal migrants to law enforcement agencies.
With the specter of the 2020 elections materialising, compromise is likely to be skirted for a further entrenchment of pre-established positions.