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Difference Between Trump and Obama Immigration Policies

Immigration policies are a key topic in today’s politics. All across the world, a number of politicians and political parties are looking to harshen immigration policies in order to slow down the mass scale immigration that has been taking place in the last decade. Climate change, international conflicts, civil wars, ethnical prosecutions and instable governments have pushed millions of people to leave their countries to seek asylum abroad. This phenomenon knows no boundaries, and has become a key issue in the United States, but also in Europe, Asia and Africa.

In the United States, both former President Barack Obama and current President Donald Trump have implemented strict immigration policies, with Obama being one of the US Presidents with the highest records of deportations in history and Trump under accusation for his immigration ban and his decision to separate immigrant families at the border.

Both president have tried to reduce the rate of immigration into the United States, with Trump even pledging he would build a wall along the border with Mexico, but – despite a number of similarities – there are key differences in the ways Trump and Obama implemented their policies.


What is Trump Immigration Policy?

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Donald Trump insisted on the importance of drastically reduce illegal immigration into the United States, and promised to build a wall along the border with Mexico. Shortly after his victory, Trump signed the so called “immigration ban”, which suspended the entry of Syrian refugees in the US indefinitely; posed limitations to the acceptance of refugees; suspended the entrance of immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries (namely Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) for 90 days and suspended the US Refugee Admission Program for 120 days.

The ban was met with large protests across the country and all over the world, and only few months later Trump signed a second ban, revoking and replacing the first one. The second immigration ban suspended the US Refugee Admission Program for 120 days, suspended the admission of refugees within the country for 120 days, and restricted admission of immigrants from six Muslim-majority countries. Iraq was eliminated from the previous list, although the new ban called for a “thorough review” of all applications submitted by Iraqi nationals.

More recently, Donald Trump has authorized border authorities to detain immigrant families, including children. This has led to the separation of over 2,300 families and has sparked outrage and protests across the globe. Since his first day in office, Trump has worked to make access to the United States more difficult for illegal migrants, increasing the number of deportations and harshening border control strategies.


What is Obama Immigration Policy?

Much like Donald Trump, Barack Obama implemented strict immigration policies and deported hundreds of illegal migrants during his eight-year presidency. Despite a large wave of migrations, Obama did not deny access in the US to minorities and asylum seekers, but he harshened vetting and immigration policies in response to growing terrorist threats. While he had always been rather strict in controlling borders and deporting illegal aliens, Obama further harshened his stance when he issued an immigration restriction policy. The documents slowed the processing of refugees requests and “Special Immigrant Visas” – especially thought for Iraqi interpreters who had helped American troops during the war. The policy also expanded screening processes, slowed down resettlement for Iraqi refugees and called for the re-examination of thousands of Iraqis who had already been admitted in the United States, thus affecting over 58,000 people.

Like Trump, Obama agreed to detain illegal migrants, although he had to interrupt that practice when the court ruled against him. During Obama administration, some families where separated when trying to illegally enter the United States, but this was not a common practice, as it was under Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy.


Similarities between Trump and Obama Immigration Policies

Although Trump and Obama are often seen as completely different Presidents, politicians and individuals, their immigration policies have a number of aspects in common. Indeed, Trump has always been more outspoken regarding the need of halting mass immigration, but Obama – while less loud on the matter – has implemented strict policies to reduce the flow of illegal immigrants entering the United States. Some of the key similarities between Trump and Obama immigration policies include:

  1. Both have improved and intensified screening and vetting processes compared to their predecessors:
  2. Both have issued immigration bans, although Obama’s ban was issued following a specific threat and mainly targeted Iraqi nationals while Trump’s ban broadly targeted Muslim immigrants;
  3. Both deported and detained illegal migrants;
  4. Both led to the separation of families at the border, although this was not a common practice under Obama’s administration; and
  5. Both housed “unaccompanied” minors in separate facilities, although in the case of Obama they were mainly arriving to the US border already unaccompanied.

In addition, despite Obama did not specifically target Muslim-majority countries in his immigration policies, he had already identified the seven countries that were later included in Trump’s immigration bans. The Obama administration required dual citizens from those seven countries (Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, Yemen and Libya) to apply for a Visa before entering the United States, preventing them from participating in the Dual Waiver Program.


Difference between Trump and Obama Immigration Policies

Donald Trump often criticized Obama’s immigration policies, claiming that they were not effective and efficient enough to stop the wave of illegal immigrants entering the United States. As such, Trump intensified vetting and screening processes, intensified anti-immigration controls and implemented policies aimed at significantly reduce the number of immigrants entering the country. Some of the key differences between Trump and Obama immigration policies include:

  1. Under Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, over 2,300 families have been systematically separated at the border between Mexico and the United States, and children were often detained in separate buildings. To date, some children still have to be reconnected with their parents, as the identification and registration processes have proved ineffective. During the Obama administration, some families have been separated at the border, and sometimes children have been detained in separate buildings. However, this was not a common practice at the time, and most children detained in separate facilities had already arrived unaccompanied at the border; and
  2. Obama harshened immigration policies in 2014 in response to a surge of illegal immigration. The number of illegal aliens entering the United States spiked between 2013 and 2014, and Obama implemented a “mostly punitive” approach to tackle the problem. Conversely, when Trump decided to implement its “entirely punitive” approach to immigration, the number of illegal migrants entering the country was within average, with no hikes indicated by border authorities.


Trump vs Obama Immigration policies

Building on the differences highlighted in the previous section, we can identify a number of other factors that differentiate Trump and Obama’s immigration policies.


Summary of Trump Vs. Obama Immigration Policies

Immigration policies are a key topic in today’s world. Most newly elected Presidents and Prime Ministers across the world, have won the elections largely because of their immigration policies, and all over the world we are witnessing a significant growth of nationalistic and anti-immigration movements. In the United States, Donald Trump has based much of his presidential campaign on the promise of building a wall along the border with Mexico in order to reduce illegal immigration, thus making America safer, in his opinion, and increasing job opportunities for Americans. Trump has also largely criticized the Democrat’s and Obama’s approach to immigration, especially illegal immigration, claiming that his predecessor had not done enough to stop the wave of illegal aliens entering the United States.

In reality, Obama’s immigration policies were quite strict. One of the largest numbers of deportations was registered under his administration, and his immigration ban slowed down the rate of approval and resettlement of Iraqi citizens, and perfected and intensified vetting processes. After winning the elections in 2016, Trump signed two Executive Orders, temporarily suspending the entrance in the country of citizens’ from several Muslim-majority countries, and implemented – although for a brief period – a “zero tolerance” policy to stop migrants at the border. Both Presidents have taken action to reduce and stop illegal immigration, although Trump has often taken more radical stances and targeted larger groups with his policies.

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1 Comment

  1. So in all actuality, there are only two similarities in their policies. #’s 2, 4, 5 are not similar if you have to add “although”.

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References :

[0]Liguori, Anna. "Trump'Muslim Ban'and International Law." Diritti umani e diritto internazionale 1 (2017): 173-188.

[1]Meissner, Doris M., et al. Immigration enforcement in the United States: The rise of a formidable machinery. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute, 2013.

[2]Rubenstein, David S., and Pratheepan Gulasekaram. "Immigration Exceptionalism." Nw. UL Rev. 111 (2016): 583.

[3]Image credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_policy_of_the_Donald_Trump_administration#/media/File:President_Donald_Trump_meets_with_Australian_Prime_Minister_Malcolm_Turnbull_for_a_bilateral_meeting_aboard_the_Intrepid_Sea,_Air_%26_Space_Museum,_Thursday,_May_4,_2017,_in_New_York_City..jpg

[4]Image credit: https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/image/image_file/p111313ps-0756.1.jpg

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