Like so many Americans, I was absolutely dumbfounded that Donald Trump won the election. To be honest, I never seriously considered the possibility that after the never-ending election cycle and the clear picture that Trump gave of himself, he would actually be elected president. Yet, here we are.
His election has caused panic and heartbreak in the immigrant community. Trump said so many demeaning and hateful things while on the campaign trail about immigrants — most of which were completely untrue. His proposals to build walls and deport millions were repeated over and over. More alarmingly, Trump has recruited hardline anti-immigration extremist Kris Kobach to his transition team. Trump certainly has given us much to worry about.
While there is not much to be hopeful about, there is also no need to panic. After reading Trump’s website, it is clear that most of Trump’s proposals are either completely unconstitutional or outside the scope of executive power. For example, “Move criminal aliens out day one” is a clear violation of the Constitution. The same goes for indefinitely detaining immigrants until they are removed from our country. All people physically present in the United States are entitled to due process — meaning that they first need to be charged in immigration court, and they are entitled to answer to those charges. Many of them will have defenses to allow them to stay in the United States.
The executive alone cannot enact new immigration laws. For example, Congress allocates the money needed to deport people to the Department of Homeland Security. The president can set priorities but cannot deport more people than the resources allow. The same goes for tripling the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents — that needs money from Congress. I cannot even imagine how much money and resources Congress would need to appropriate to “ensure that a biometric entry-exit visa tracking system is fully implemented at all land, air, and sea ports.”
Then there are the proposals that just defy reality completely. “Turn off the jobs and benefits magnet” — I am not exactly sure what Trump means by this, but the reality of our economy is that we need more workers than we have. This is true especially in agriculture and information technology. If there were qualified U.S. employees, we wouldn’t see record numbers of applications for visas in these categories. Building that “impenetrable physical wall” that “Mexico will pay for” would not only break our national budget, but also the laws of physics.
Trump has made hundreds of proposals and since he has no track record of serving in public office, it is difficult to know what his actual priorities will be — or what he will be able to focus on long enough to actually accomplish. He does have the power to stop certain executive actions, such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and he has stated his intention to do so.
My sincere hope is that in these next few weeks of transition, when Trump is forced to actually look at the realities of being president, he listens to the American people. He stated in his acceptance speech that he will be a president for all Americans. The vast majority of Americans support not only DACA but also comprehensive immigration reform. We are a nation of immigrants who have been made stronger by our diversity.
Trump may have brought out some of the worst undertones of a changing society, but we are stronger and better than hate and xenophobia. These next four years might not be what many of us expected, but with strong advocacy and a commitment to the due process of all people, we can still make a difference.
Valerie Sprout of Shawnee is an immigration attorney focusing on family-based and humanitarian cases. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.