Can Donald Trump change the US immigration system all by himself?
Hi, I'm Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law out of our office here in St. Louis, Missouri. At the time we're shooting this video in August of 2017 there's been a lot of noise, and circumstance, and news reporting about all the changes that Donald Trump he himself might bring into the immigration landscape, and we thought we would shoot this short video to dispel some myths and walk you through what he can and can't do. En Español.
One of the things that's been really interesting since Trump took office is that we've all gotten a lot of good lessons in the way that our civic system works and our system of checks and balances and that is the three branches of government, of course. We have the three branches of government which are the judiciary, the legislature and the executive branch, which is headed by President Trump. There have already been things over the course of his short administration that have impacted each of those branches of government and demonstrate the kinds of points that I want to make today.
The first thing to keep in mind is that there are three branches of the government and that the executive can only do so much. Now, one of the things that I often say about elections is that when a person becomes president, they put in people in charge of their departments, their administrators, their secretaries in the cabinet, and these people are making small tweaks to the law that you don't see on a regular basis. They're updating regulations. They're changing things that most people don't pay attention to.
Now, when it comes to immigration, we pay pretty close attention to changes in the regulations and the rules and of course any changes in the law. But, the executive's job is to enforce the law. The executive can't make new law and the executive can only direct the people beneath him or her to follow the law and to the extent that the executive tries to overstep the law and to do things that aren't legal, that is going to be stopped and I'll tell you how in a minute.
We saw an example of this with the so-called Muslim ban, President Trump's attempt to keep people from seven predominantly Muslim countries and then six Muslim countries out of the United States while they supposedly figure things out with the immigration system and whether those countries were helping the United States vet those people to see if we should allow them into the country. You might recall that he released that program on a late Friday afternoon. And, by early the next week, there were lawsuits already on file challenging it, and we saw the three branches of government lay bare. The judiciary stopped President Trump and that executive order banning Muslims from those countries, so it's important to keep in mind. I understand the fear, the consternation and the worry about what Trump can and can't do, but there are checks on him. The courts will make sure that he's following the law and that he's following the constitution. As any good immigration student knows, that the constitution is a supreme law of the land and that the president has to follow the constitution and laws written by congress have to follow the constitution.
One point I really want to drive home is that the president can only do so much. If he tries to impose an executive order that is contrary to laws on the books or the congress overrides with a specific law, then it's really a check on his power. He is not a king. He is not a dictator. He's simply the president of the United States and he has to follow the law just like everybody else.
Another thing to keep in mind is that he does have a lot of flexibility though in how the law is interpreted. A lot of people criticize President Obama because he decided to halt deportations for young people who were brought here as minors, and he viewed the immigration deportation system as overly harsh on these young people, and so he directed the Department of Homeland Security to come up with enforcement priorities and to focus on deporting people who had either committed crimes or had been repeatedly entered in the United States illegally. That was all done by executive order. President Trump has not done away with that program yet. He could at any time. Congress has not acted and pass legislation to make that protection for those young people part of the law. The president could undo any executive order done by President Obama or any other prior president. Executive orders are not law. They have to follow the law, but they can definitely impact the lives of Americans as we can tell with the many people who have benefited from President Obama's Deferred Action program.
The flexibility and the power that Trump has is, one, the fact that he can change executive orders and the other is his role as a mouthpiece and an advocate for change. Now, President Trump hasn't been particularly successful in this realm. A lot of people are tuning him out. His popularity numbers are way low and so people in congress and around the country are not as afraid as they were as to the impact that he has.
Recently he and some Republican Congresspeople came forward and put forward legislation that would really roll back immigration, especially family based immigration. He really put a lot of fear in people. That's the genesis of where this video is coming from is that we wanted to make sure that right now everybody knows that this only a proposed legislation. It hasn't been put into law, that we'll continue to monitor it. But, basically, that if he wants to roll back the way that immigration visas are given out and cut in half those numbers of immigrant visas, then he's going to have to do it through congress. Pay attention to what's going on. If you're a US citizen, contact your senators or congress people and make sure that your voice is heard because this is really important. Again, the congress acting or not acting is another check on President Trump.
Overall, I want you to be confident. I want you to be educated. I want you to be paying attention to what's going on. Understand that he's not king and he can't just snap his hands and make the changes to the immigration laws. That there's a process and a procedure and that he has to follow the law. If he doesn't follow the law, then people will take him to court. People like me and our firm and people like the ACLU and other great organizations will take him to court, hold his feet to the fire and make sure that he's following the law. Don't be afraid. Do not be afraid. There are people out here who will protect you, people who will help you.
If you have any questions about this, about the changes that Trump may or may not be able to put into place, be sure to give us a call at (314) 961-8200 or you can email us at [email protected] If you like this video, be sure to give it a like down below, share it with your friends and family and make sure to subscribe to us on all the social media channels, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook so that you get updated whenever we shoot videos like this one. Thanks a lot and have a great day.