Trump’s immigration executive orders: The demise of due process and discretion

A screenshot of the article published on The Conversation.

By Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia | Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar and Founding Director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic


The U.S. immigration code, passed by Congress in 1952, rivals the tax code in its level of complexity. The Conversation

In January, President Donald Trump signed three executive orders on immigration that have made matters more complicated for immigrants and the lawyers and advocates who fight on their behalf.

As an immigration lawyer and teacher, I have spent countless hours helping those in need and educating my community, which includes residents, educators, professors, international students and scholars, along with local government about the contents of the orders, and the guidelines released by the Department of Homeland Security in February and how they will be implemented.

Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia

Specifically, the two orders on deportations and enforcement, both signed on Jan. 25, reveal that the government is making three major changes.

First, the orders are making virtually every undocumented person a priority for deportation.

Second, they seek to maximize existing programs that allow deportation of individuals without basic due process. This includes the right to be heard by a judge, present evidence or challenge a charge of deportation.

And third, pursuant to its Feb. 20 memorandum, DHS has rescinded most documents that offered guidance on prosecutorial discretion.

Prosecutorial discretion in immigration law refers to the choice made by a government official or agency to enforce or not enforce the immigration law against a person. It has been the central focus of my research, and is a critical component in our immigration system. Officials must choose whom to prioritize for removal because they have limited resources. The government has also recognized other compelling reasons why a person might deserve to not be deported. For example, a person without papers who has lived in the United States for several years and has family ties, steady employment or community leadership may temporarily be protected from removal.

Do Trump’s executive orders signal an end to this practice?

Everyone is a priority

DHS has rescinded the 2014 Johnson Priorities Memo, which provided a framework for determining who is a priority for immigration enforcement and articulated the factors that should be considered when making decisions about whether to deport someone.

For example, the memo instructed DHS to consider amount of time spent living in the United States and “compelling humanitarian factors such as poor health, age, pregnancy, a young child, or a seriously ill relative.”

Now, the government is taking a hard-line approach to immigration enforcement, without explicit consideration for a person’s circumstances. The orders list specific parts of the 1952 immigration statute that target those eligible for deportation for reasons related to crimes or misrepresentation. But enforcement officials will also now target deportable immigrants who:

  • have been convicted of any criminal offense;
  • have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved;
  • have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense;
  • have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter before a governmental agency;
  • have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;
  • are subject to a final order of removal but have not complied with their legal obligation to depart the United States; or
  • in the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.

DHS guidance does not stop with this priority list. It goes on to suggest that any person without documents might be a priority. It repeatedly states: “All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”

Arguably, an undocumented parent living in the United States for several years and taking care of children who have formal or permanent immigration status, or United States citizenship, could be targeted as a person “in violation of the immigration laws,” whereas before this same person would have more clearly been eligible for prosecutorial discretion and not been labeled as a priority. Similarly, a student who overstays her visa and then jaywalks may be treated as an enforcement priority because jaywalking constitutes a chargeable offense.

The cumulative effect is fear that everyone is a priority.

Despite major changes to enforcement, the guidance from DHS suggests that individual prosecutorial discretion may be exercised on a case-by-case basis, and preserves three policies relating to enforcement.

One pertains to “sensitive locations” and instructs DHS to avoid enforcement in places like schools, places of worship and hospitals.

The second is a guideline on granting parole to certain arriving asylum seekers after a “credible fear” interview has been conducted. When an asylum seeker is “paroled,” she is released from detention and able to pursue her asylum claim outside of custody.

The final memo that is still intact is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA enables qualifying noncitizens who entered the United States at a young age, often referred to as “Dreamers,” to apply for protection from deportation and work authorization.

While I see the preservation of these guidelines as positive, the overriding message of the executive orders and implementation memos is one of speedy enforcement without discretion or due process.

Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia is the Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar and founding director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Pennsylvania State University. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Diversity is on the rise in urban and rural communities, and it’s here to stay

Image 20170216 32685 k4bo9v

Schoolchildren play on a New York subway. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

By Jennifer Van Hook | Liberal Arts Research Professor of Sociology and Demography
and Barrett Lee | Professor of Sociology and Demography


Racial and ethnic diversity is no longer confined to big cities and the east and west coasts of the United States. The Conversation

In the 2016 U.S. presidential election, racially and ethnically diverse metropolitan areas were more likely to vote for Hillary Clinton. Whiter metro and rural areas supported Donald Trump. This pattern reinforced the stereotype of “white rural” versus “minority urban” areas.

However, our research shows that the populations of communities throughout the nation are being transformed. The share of racial and ethnic minorities is increasing rapidly and irreversibly. These changes will have major impacts on the economy, social cohesion, education and other important parts of American life.

Nearly all communities are becoming more diverse

Jennifer Van Hook

In everyday language, “diversity” often refers to racial and ethnic variation. But demographers have developed a mathematical definition of this concept: The greater the number of racial-ethnic groups in the community, and the more equal in size the groups are, the greater the diversity. Using this definition, we have estimated that diversity has increased in 98 percent of all metropolitan areas, and 97 percent of smaller cities in the U.S. since 1980.

The trend is not limited to urban America. Dramatic increases are evident in rural places as well. Nine out of 10 rural places experienced increases in diversity between 1990 and 2010, and these changes occurred in every region of the country.

Barrett Lee

Even within metropolitan settings, the traditional divide between diverse cities and white suburbia has been eroded. Immigrant-rich suburbs are rising around cities like Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., which rival urban enclaves as destinations for Asians and Latinos.

Of course, some communities have changed more than others. Despite these differences, a common trend is for a place’s racial-ethnic composition to change from white dominance to a multigroup mix, with some combination of whites, blacks, Latinos and Asians. This led to an increase in “no-majority” communities – including more than 1,100 cities and towns, 110 counties and four states: California, Texas, New Mexico and Hawaii. In these places, none of the major racial-ethnic groups constitutes as much as 50 percent of all residents.

Immigration and diversity

The racial and ethnic diversity we see today stems from the large and sustained wave of immigration that followed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. Between 1965 and 2015, the proportion of non-Hispanic whites in the country dropped from 84 to 62 percent, while the shares of Hispanics and Asians rose. The Pew Research Center found that these changes were largely driven by immigration, not births. Only one-third of Hispanics and one-tenth of Asians would be living in the United States in 2015 had there been no immigration since 1965. Today, Hispanics account for 18 percent and Asians 6 percent of the U.S. population.

Related: Professor Van Hook was recently interviewed on NPR’s “All Things Considered” about breaking down the nearly 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. Listen and read more here.

Domestic and international migration during the 1990s and 2000s also contributed to the spread of diversity across American communities. Racial and ethnic minorities tended to move to whiter areas, and white young adults tended to move to more diverse urban areas. Notably, Latino immigrants were first concentrated in just a handful of states such as California, Texas, Florida, Illinois and New York. They started to spread across the country during the 1990s to areas known as “new destinations,” like North Carolina, Georgia and Iowa.

By that time, many Hispanic immigrants had acquired legal status and were free to move to new job opportunities in agriculture, construction and manufacturing in the Southeast and Midwest, as well as service sector jobs in high-amenity vacation destinations, such as in Colorado.

Diversity is now self-sustaining

Despite the initial importance of migration, racial and ethnic diversity is now self-sustaining. Minority groups will soon be maintained by “natural increase,” when births exceed deaths, rather than by new immigration.

This is especially true for Hispanics. According to the Pew Research Center study mentioned earlier, about a quarter of the U.S. population is projected to be Hispanic by 2065, up from 18 percent in 2015. This trend would not change if immigration somehow were halted completely after 2015, the final year in Pew’s study. The sustainability of the Latino population is even evident in rural and urban areas in the Southeast and Midwest, where natural increase in the Latino population, rather than international or domestic migration, is now responsible for more than half of Hispanic growth.

But, how can the share of Hispanics continue to grow without new immigration?

A small part of the answer is that Latinos have slightly more children than non-Hispanic whites. On average, Hispanic women have 2.1 children compared with 1.8 among non-Hispanic white women. However, fertility among Hispanic women declines with each new generation in the U.S., so this factor is unlikely to play a major role in the long run.

The main engine of America’s future diversity gains will be “cohort succession,” a process in which older majority-white generations are replaced by younger minority-majority generations. As shown in the charts below, which we created from U.S. Census Bureau population projections, children and young adults, many of whom are the children of immigrants, are currently much more diverse than older adults.

Fast-forward to 2050. Today’s older generations will have died. The more diverse younger generations will have grown up and had their own diverse children and grandchildren.

The seeds for future gains in diversity have already been planted.

Fear and distrust

Many Americans respond to these changes with fear and distrust. Some whites have an aversion to living near people of color. A small number of no-majority places and other highly diverse municipalities and neighborhoods like the Chicago suburb of Calumet Park and the Los
Angeles suburbs of Lynwood and Monterey Park have already become more homogeneous, as one minority group has grown and whites have moved away. These places are exceptions to the trend of growing diversity, but other communities may follow suit. Some people want to “turn back the clock” by limiting immigration, a sentiment Donald Trump tapped into during his presidential campaign.

Trump described black and Hispanic communities as impoverished, dangerous inner-city neighborhoods. This was an exaggeration, but it may have stoked rural white voters’ fears of racial-ethnic diversity.

Although all-minority communities are often disadvantaged, communities with high levels of diversity with a mixture of racial and ethnic groups do not fit Trump’s image. Highly diverse communities are more common in coastal states and across the South. They have larger populations and a critical mass of foreign-born inhabitants, both of which contribute to their reputation as comfort zones for minorities and immigrants.

Diverse communities also tend to offer attractive housing and labor market opportunities, including an abundant rental stock, higher median income and a job opportunities in a variety of occupations. Some are also hubs for government or military jobs. Overall, the evidence suggests that highly diverse communities are good places to live, and often support industries that employ immigrants, and racial and ethnic minorities.

Throughout history, notions of who belongs in American society have expanded again and again to incorporate new groups. History could repeat itself for today’s immigrants if they are given a fair chance. Many people fear immigrants and the social burdens they seem to bring with them, including poverty, limited education and low English proficiency. But this overlooks the many contributions immigrants make, and the fact that immigrants’ socioeconomic disadvantages will almost certainly diminish if they are given equal opportunities in U.S. schools and workplaces.

Jennifer Van Hook is a Liberal Arts Research Professor of Sociology and Demography at Penn State and Barrett Lee is a Professor of Sociology and Demography at Penn State. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Professor Van Hook was recently interviewed on NPR’s “All Things Considered” about breaking down the nearly 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. Listen and read more here.

Border wall could have unexpected victims: wildlife

This February 2014 photo taken for the BBC World Service shows a border wall along the Pacific Ocean in Southern California. (Photo by Nina Robinson, BBC World Service/Flickr)

Jesse Lasky, an assistant professor of biology, was recently quoted in The Washington Post about the impact building a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico could have on wildlife. Here’s an excerpt:

“At a time when the Trump administration has restricted communications from the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies, federal agencies may be reluctant to weigh in on any topic in a way that appears critical of the president’s ambitions.

Jesse Lasky

“But outside the government, scientists who’ve studied how 670 miles of walls and fences erected as part of the Secure Fence Act under former president George W. Bush in 2006 tell stories of animals stopping in their tracks, staring at barriers they couldn’t cross.

” ‘At the border wall, people have found large mammals confounded and not knowing what to do,’ said Jesse Lasky, an assistant professor of biology at Penn State University. Deer, mountain lions, jaguar and ocelots are among the animals whose daily movement was disrupted, he said.

“Trump’s proposed wall, estimated to cost between $15 billion and $25 billion, would cover parts of the border that the Bush project, which was essentially abandoned because of its cost in 2009, does not.”

Read the full article on Lasky was also quoted in similar articles on and

Skip to toolbar