Back to Top

The Chipping Away of U.S. Legal Immigration: October Edition

Overwhelmed by all the headlines detailing drastic changes to immigration policy? Here’s a list of the alarming policy changes that have happened during the month of October alone.

10/2: DNA Collection

The Department of Homeland Security announces that it will begin collecting DNA samples from potentially hundreds of thousands of migrants in U.S. custody. The new rules would allow the government to collect DNA from children, as well as those who seek asylum at legal ports of entry and have not broken the law.

10/3: Child Asylum Barriers

A Department of Justice draft proposal shows evidence of how the Trump administration wants to make it harder for unaccompanied migrant children to secure asylum. If a child does not apply for asylum with USCIS within two months after appearing before a judge for an initial hearing, the judge will move forward with the case, as opposed to continuing it until a later time and waiting for USCIS to resolve the filing. (Two months to pull together an asylum case is a heavy lift for an immigration lawyer. Two months for an unaccompanied child is nearly impossible.)

10/4: Health Insurance Needed Before Immigration

President Trump signs a proclamation (which will be effective starting Nov. 3) that will prevent immigrants who don’t have health insurance and can’t afford to pay medical costs from moving to the U.S. permanently. This could cut legal immigration by 65%.

10/11: Sick Immigrants Sent Home

The House Oversight and Reform Committee investigates the temporary end to a policy that allowed some immigrants with severe health issues to remain in the U.S. This was initiated after the administration refused to answer questions about why the change happened, who oversaw the decision, and how deferred action will be carried out moving forward.

10/11: Public Charge Change Temporarily Blocked

Federal judges in New York, California, and Washington decided to temporarily block the implementation of the Trump administration’s proposed “public charge” rule, which would effectively bar many individuals from legal immigration into the U.S. if they are deemed likely to end up using public benefits.

10/17: Central America Will Get Aid if They Receive Deportees

President Trump will restore over $140 million in foreign aid to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador after reaching new cooperation agreements to attempt to curb mass migration and return Central American asylum seekers to their countries of origin or countries through which they traveled en route to the U.S., despite the dangers and persecution they originally fled.

10/22: “Sanctuary State” Decision Requested From Supreme Court

The Trump administration files a petition asking the Supreme Court to hear a challenge to a California “sanctuary state” law that prevents state law enforcement officers from assisting federal immigration officers who seek to deport certain undocumented immigrants.

10/23: “Remain in Mexico” Promises Broken

Migrants who agreed to wait in Mexico for their U.S. asylum hearings are told they may no longer be eligible for asylum at all. When the Trump administration implemented its latest Asylum Ban -- denying asylum for those who passed through Mexico and did not first ask for asylum there -- there were already many with who were in the process of awaiting a court date. They were promised that if they returned to Mexico under the “Remain in Mexico” policy change that they could still be considered for asylum. Now, reports show they’re being told they can’t enter the U.S. for their court dates after all.

10/25: Two Options Erased for Fighting Deportations

Attorney General William Barr issued two decisions limiting immigrants' options to fight deportation. The first removes a longstanding path to stop deportation for people with old criminal convictions. The second disqualifies people with multiple drinking and driving convictions from many paths to legal immigration status. Barr can make such sweeping decisions over immigration law because unlike most of the federal court system, immigration court is part of the executive branch, not the judiciary, making the attorney general both the nation's top prosecutor and, in the case of immigration courts, its top judge. While past administrations have used the power, often to narrowly clarify immigration law, the Trump administration has been using it to alter large parts of the immigration system without writing new laws or regulations through the congressional legislative process.

10/27: 1,556 More Children Were Separated from Parents Than We Thought

1,556 additional immigrant children were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border than has previously been disclosed. These are in addition to the more than 2,700 children known to have been separated last year. “These are the families we’re going to have to search for all over the world,” the ACLU’s Lee Gelernt said.

10/27: Asylum Denials Secretly Fast-Tracked

The administration is testing a “secretive” pilot program called the Prompt Asylum Claim Review, which would expedite deportations by giving migrants a decision on their asylum application in 10 days or less. Lawyers say it denies asylum seekers due process. 

10/28: Poor Immigrants Will Pay Fees

Planned to begin December 2, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will no longer consider use of certain public benefits in determining whether an immigrant is eligible for a fee waiver.

10/29: Sent to Guatemala

White House begins implementing a decision made in July -- sending asylum seekers from the U.S. border to Guatemala. The July pact between the U.S. and Guatemala gives the Department of Homeland Security the ability to send asylum seekers to Guatemala if they do not seek protection there while traveling through the country en route to the U.S. It could mean that migrants from numerous countries will make the dangerous journey to the U.S. only to be sent back to Central America upon reaching U.S. territory. There are myriad concerns that Guatemala is unable to safely resettle vulnerable groups, amidst widespread poverty and some of the world’s highest homicide rates.

10/29: El Salvador Deal: U.S. Extends TPS, El Salvador Slows Migrants

A deal is struck with El Salvador: the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program will be extended for Salvadorans, giving approximately 200,000 Salvadorans living in the U.S. a one-year extension for their work permits. In return, El Salvador will work with U.S. immigration officials to bolster their own border and immigration enforcement efforts in an attempt to slow the flow of migrants heading to the U.S.

10/29: Refugee Resettlement Program Shutdown Continues

The Trump administration was due to have made their final determination by September 30th on the number of refugees to be admitted to the U.S. for FY2020. President Trump failed to comply with his law-mandated responsibility to consult certain congressional leaders on the determination prior to the end of September and thus missed the deadline. Therefore, the refugee resettlement program has been in shutdown since October 1, resulting in hundreds of cancelled flights for refugees prepared to resettle in the U.S. Since April 2019, roughly 100 refugee resettlement offices have had to close their doors because of the drastic shrinking of the refugee program in recent years. The president has yet to make this final determination, which he has proposed at 18,000 -- a historic low for the program.

Urge State Support for Refugee Resettlement

In tandem with the administration’s announcement proposing to only resettle 18,000 refugees for Fiscal Year 2020, President Trump also signed an executive order that gives states and localities the ability to deny refugees from being resettled in their communities. As Christians, we recognized that refugees are blessings and that by welcoming them, we are welcoming Christ among us. Urge your state and local elected officials to sign a letter to the president in support of refugee resettlement in their communities!


The Reformed family is a diverse family with a diverse range of opinions. Not all perspectives expressed on the blog represent the official positions of the Christian Reformed Church. Learn more about this blog, Reformed doctrines, and our diversity policy on our About page.

In order to steward ministry shares well, commenting isn’t available on Do Justice itself because we engage with comments and dialogue in other spaces. To comment on this post, please visit the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue’s Facebook page (for Canada-specific articles) or the Office of Social Justice’s Facebook page. Alternatively, please email us. We want to hear from you!

Read more about our comment policy.