Group Created with Sketch.

The Trump administration continues its all-out assault on immigration.

The executive branch took concerted steps this year to curtail travel and immigration to the United States—and even to invalidate the immigration status of people who have been living lawfully in the country for years. Despite the administration’s stated concerns about efficiency, few of these actions seemed to be aimed at clearing the backlog of cases in immigration court—more than 750,000 at the end of fiscal year 2018—and most appear to be contributing to its growth.TRAC Immigration, “Immigration Court Backlog Jumps While Case Processing Slows,”; and TRAC Immigration, “Immigration Court Backlog Tool,”

  • Trump’s revised travel ban was upheld in the Supreme Court. In a 5–4 June decision, the Supreme Court upheld President Trump’s ban on travel from several countries, the majority of which are predominantly Muslim.Trump v. Hawaii, 585 U.S. __ (2018). The ban initially restricted travel to the United States from eight nations: Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen—although Chad was removed from the list in April.Trump v. Hawaii, 585 U.S. __ (2018), 5. For the removal of restrictions on Chad, see U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), “Chad has Met Baseline Security Requirements, Travel Restrictions to be Removed,” press release (Washington, DC: DHS, April 10, 2018). The Court found the ban to be neutral on its face and distinct from what Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged were the President’s “many incendiary statements” about Muslims.Trump v. Hawaii, 585 U.S. __ (2018). Justice Sonia Sotomayor, dissenting, compared the majority’s ruling to Korematsu v. United States, the decision justifying the relocation and internment of American citizens of Japanese ancestry during World War II.Trump v. Hawaii, 585 U.S. __ (2018). (dissent of Justice Sotomayor); Adam Liptak and Michael Shear, “Trump’s Travel Ban Is Upheld by Supreme Court,” New York Times, June 26, 2018,; and Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944).
    The decision appeared to mark the end of litigation over the content of a series of similar travel bans issued in 2017 that had been substantially blocked by lower federal courts.For the travel bans, see Exec. Order No. 13769, 82 Fed. Reg. 8,977 (January 27, 2017); Exec. Order No. 13780, 82 Fed. Reg. 13209 (March 6, 2017); and Proclamation No. 9645, 82 Fed. Reg. 45161 (September 24, 2017). For the litigation, see Adam Liptak and Michael Shear, “Trump’s Travel Ban Is Upheld by Supreme Court,” New York Times, June 26, 2018; and Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944). But the battle isn’t over: in mid-December, U.S. District Court Judge James Donato denied the government’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit regarding the refusal to issue visas to people from five “travel ban” countries, and that case also seems likely to eventually come before the Supreme Court.Emami v. Trump, No. 3:18-cv-01587 (N.D. Cal); and Sudhin Thanawala, “US Judge: Suit over Trump Travel Ban Waivers Will Go Ahead,” Associated Press, December 13, 2018.
  • The Trump administration lowers the allowable number of refugee entrants to the United States—and announces a plan to reduce it further in 2019. After cutting the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the United States by more than half in 2017 (from 110,000 at the end of the Obama presidency to just 45,000), the administration announced that the number would be slashed by another 33 percent—to 30,000—for fiscal year 2019.For the fiscal year 2019 refugee ceiling, see U.S. Department of State (DOS), Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, Proposed Refugee Admissions FY 2019 (Washington, DC: DOS, 2018). For historical data, see Migration Policy Institute, “U.S. Annual Refugee Resettlement Ceilings and Number of Refugees Admitted, 1980–­Present,” accessed January 29, 2019. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed the decision was based on a new policy preference for settling refugees closer to their home countries, as well as on security concerns, saying that “[w]e must continue to responsibly vet applicants to prevent the entry of those who might do harm to our country.”Julie Hirschfield Davis, “Trump to Cap Refugees Allowed into U.S. at 30,000, a Record Low,” New York Times, September 17, 2018. Critics from immigration advocates to evangelical Christian groups have raised concerns about the zeal with which applicants are “vetted”: in fiscal year 2018, only about 22,000 refugees of the permitted 45,000 were actually admitted.Migration Policy Institute, “U.S. Annual Refugee Resettlement Ceilings and Number of Refugees Admitted, 1980-Present,” accessed January 29, 2019.