President-elect Donald Trump and Republicans retaining control of both the U.S. House and Senate will no doubt profoundly affect this country’s course on immigration.
A few weeks ago, Trump released his priorities for his first 100 days in office as president. His priorities will make it more difficult for immigrants to live and work in Silicon Valley. They will also reverse much of the progress made under President Obama. Still, given the business climate and culture in the socially progressive Bay Area, it’s still worth the effort of building a life and a business in Silicon Valley.
Here are President-elect Trump’s priorities during his first 100 days that will have the biggest impact on immigrants and immigration policy—and the prospects for implementing these priorities.
EB-5 Regional Center Program
The EB-5 Regional Center Program was extended until December 9, giving Congress time to review it. Any legislation would likely be put on hold until the new members of Congress are inaugurated in January. If that happens, the EB-5 Regional Center Program will sunset next month.
President Obama used executive actions when efforts to get legislation passed through Congress failed. Trump has promised to cancel “every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum, and order issued by President Obama.”
Trump will presumably cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which went into effect in 2012 through an executive action issued by President Obama. DACA was passed by Obama as an executive action that allows certain undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as children under the age of 16 to receive protection from deportation and receive a work permit. This is a profoundly sad and scary prospect for over half a million young people who have grown up in the United States.
International Entrepreneur Rule
Another executive action by the Obama Administration resulted in the proposed International Entrepreneur Rule. The International Entrepreneur Rule came five years after Congress failed to pass an immigration reform package that included a startup visa. Under the rule, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would grant parole to immigrant entrepreneurs who boost the U.S. economy by rapidly growing a startup, creating jobs, and innovation. Parole is a temporary stay in the U.S. awarded by USCIS on a case-by-case basis.
The final version of the rule was expected to go into effect before President Obama leaves office in January. Whether President Obama will still promulgate this regulation, and whether Trump can eliminate the rule if the final version goes into effect, remains to be seen.
Trump has proposed lowering the business tax rate from 35% to 15%. If that happens, the business tax rate would be much lower than the long-term capital gains rate. That’s great news to businesses and investment partners at venture capital firms.
Investment partners’ salaries are treated as an investment—also known as carried interest—rather than income. Carried interest means investment partners’ salaries are taxed at long-term capital gains rates of 15% to 20%—much lower than income-tax rates. Venture capitalists have long asserted that the risks they take in holding onto assets typically for several years justify the tax break.
However, if Trump successfully reduces the business tax rate, even VC partners would likely abandon carried interest. President-elect Trump will have to work with Congress to get his tax break plan passed. Most experts agree this tax plan will balloon the federal deficit.
Trump has promised to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexican border, making Mexico reimburse the U.S. for the full cost. The president of Mexico has made it clear that his government will not finance a border wall. Trump has suggested the wall be funded by taxing money that Mexican immigrants working in the U.S. send to relatives in Mexico.
Regardless, Trump would need to get Congress to appropriate money to build a wall, not to mention the many legal and logistical challenges of building a border wall.
Other priorities listed on Trump’s action plan for his first 100 days in office include:
- Begin removing the two million criminal illegal immigrants and canceling visas to countries that won’t take them back.
- Stop immigration from regions where terrorist activity occurs—and where vetting cannot safely occur.
- Extreme vetting of all people coming into the U.S.
- A minimum two-year mandatory federal prison sentence for illegally reentering the U.S. after a previous deportation.
- A minimum five-year mandatory federal prison sentence for illegally reentering the U.S. for those with felony convictions, multiple misdemeanor convictions or two or more prior deportations.
- Increase the penalties for overstaying in the U.S. on a visa to ensure open jobs are offered to American workers first.
- Canceling all federal funding to sanctuary cities. Sanctuary cities are those with policies or laws protecting immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally from federal immigration law, such as preventing local law enforcement and government employees from turning over illegal immigrants to federal agents.
Trump did not address H-1B visas in his priorities for his first 100-days in office. But during the campaign, Trump indicated he would severely restrict the H-1B visa program. In his immigration proposal, Trump argued that foreign workers took jobs away from poor and working-class Americans and lowered wages. He said he would increase the prevailing wage for H-1B visas to force companies to hire U.S. workers.
He promised to “end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program. No exceptions.”
Any changes to the H-1B visa program would require Congress to pass legislation, which Trump could sign into law. But even with a Republican majority in Congress, previous attempts at amending the H-1B visa program have been unsuccessful.
No doubt, I’m concerned about what a Trump presidency and a Republican-controlled Congress will bring. However, my concerns are eased knowing our Constitution is designed to prevent the concentration of power. Our Constitution places limits on executive and congressional power by providing checks and balances. And our Constitution protects individual liberties.
That means no law may be adopted that discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. They cannot stop anyone from expressing their views. They cannot jail anyone without just cause. They cannot violate individual rights or due process.
What’s more, passing a law or implementing a regulation takes just as long and requires just as much work as changing or dismantling them.
My concerns have eased by the signs of hope and vigilance that have emerged since the election.
According to FWD.us, exit polls showed that 71% of voters support a pathway to citizenship, while only 25% of voters support deporting as many undocumented immigrants as possible. Moreover, in the most comprehensive Latino tracking poll of the election, 79% of Latinos voted for Clinton, while Trump received 18%—a new record low for a Republican candidate. Based on these polls, Americans want to see border security along with a legalization process for undocumented immigrants.
Moreover, donations to organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, have surged since Tuesday’s election.
We will continue to help highly-motivated individuals come to America to build amazing companies. We stand ready to protect and fight for the rights of all immigrants. We want to ensure you can live peacefully and legally in the U.S. and create the life you’ve dreamed about for yourself and your children.