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How Trump Administration Dramatically Reshaped US Immigration Policy

FILE - U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to autograph a plaque commemorating the construction of the 200th mile of border wall while visiting the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border in San Luis, Arizona, June 23, 2020.

The Trump administration has issued more than 400 executive actions that dramatically reshaped America's immigration system. Some of those executive actions are coming under scrutiny ahead of the November 3 presidential election.

Family separation

A firestorm has erupted over reports that the U.S. government lost track of the parents of 545 migrant children separated at the U.S.-Mexico border under a now-defunct Trump administration policy of "zero tolerance" for illegal border crossers.

Immigrant advocates said they do not know where the children are now or why the parents sent back to their countries of origin cannot be found.

"[The children] are no longer in [Department of Homeland Security] custody, no longer in [Health and Human Services] custody, no longer in the government's custody," said Lee Gelernt of the American Civil Liberties Union's immigrant rights project. "They were sponsored out. And that could mean [the children are with] a relative who — maybe — they were lucky enough to know. It could be a very distant relative they didn't know. But it could also mean a stranger in a foster family [in the United States]. And now it's been three years."

A statement from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said federal authorities have "yet to identify a single family that wants their child reunited in their country of origin."

Gelernt said, if found, the parents of the children face a horrible choice "of having to either be separated permanently or bring their child back to danger [in the home countries] rather than bringing the parent back to the U.S."

A federal judge last year ordered the U.S. government to reunite children with parents separated under the 2017 pilot program that coincided with the Trump administration's initial efforts to limit asylum-seeker entry into the United States along the southern border.

Supreme Court cases

The Supreme Court revised its calendar, setting Nov. 30 as the date to hear arguments on the Trump administration's push to exclude undocumented immigrants from the U.S. Census count, which was just completed nationwide. Among many functions, the Census is used to determine how many U.S. representatives each state has in Congress.

Looking ahead to next year, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear two cases pertaining to policies at the U.S.-Mexico border. One concerns the Trump administration's reallocation of federal funds to pay for the construction of several miles of a border wall, a key promise of Trump's 2016 campaign and an initiative Congress repeatedly declined to fully fund.

The second case focuses on the Trump administration's "Remain in Mexico" program that forced asylum-seekers to await their U.S. immigration court cases on the Mexican side of the border.

Asylum rules

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently proposed a rule that blocks certain people from obtaining asylum, including convicted felons and those who have been found guilty of illegal reentry into the United States.

The proposal would also block those who illegally harbored unauthorized immigrants, possessed a controlled substance, used false identification or unlawfully received public benefits.

Under the rule, no exceptions would be granted for immigrants whose convictions have been expunged.

Under current immigration law, asylum-seekers who fail to apply for asylum within one year of entering the United States are barred from receiving asylum. Those convicted of a serious crime, including terrorist activity, are also barred.

The new rule is set go into effect in November.

Fast-track deportations

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced it is moving forward with "expedited removal" — a fast-tracked deportation process that bars certain immigrants from making a case to remain in the United States before an immigration judge.

"Our ability to implement this important statutory tool will further enable us to protect our communities and preserve the integrity of our nation's congressionally mandated immigration laws," Tony Pham, the senior official performing the duties of the ICE director, said in a statement.

Immigrants bear "the affirmative burden to show to the satisfaction of the encountering immigration officer" that they should not be promptly deported, Pham added.

The policy will apply expedited removal to undocumented immigrants detained anywhere in the country if deportation agents conclude they have lived in the country for fewer than two years and were not lawfully paroled or admitted to the U.S.