Tyler Brewer / Sun Staff Photographer

September 30, 2016

Law Professor Addresses Flaws, Evolution of U.S. Immigration Policy

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Prof. Stephen Yale-Loehr ’77 JD ’81, immigration law, discussed the current state of immigration policy and how either a Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton presidency would change the issue’s evolution in Klarman Hall Tuesday.

Yale-Loehr asserted that Immigration law is the the most complicated area of law in the United States.

“We are the largest immigration system in the world,” he said. “Over 10 million people come to the United States temporarily each year and over a million people immigrate permanently.”

Yale-Loehr explained that many factors — including the large numbers of immigrants, complicated categories of visas, and conflicting interests between the U.S. homeland security, state and labor departments — contribute to a system that is currently “broken.”

For example, he said, due to complicated bureaucratic processes, it can take 23 years for someone to petition for a green card for a sibling from the Philippines. Even after receiving the green card, it can take another three to five years for these immigrants to become citizens.

“Because it takes so long to get through the front door, legally, many people come through the back door, illegally,” he said.

Yale-Loehr added that processes, concerning illegal immigration, are similarly backlogged — despite due process, it takes on average 18 months to reach an immigration hearing.

He also discussed the potential immigration policies that presidential candidates Clinton and Trump would implement.

“Both of them are looking at the immigration issue,” Yale-Loehr said. “But one says [the issue is] half full; the other says it’s half empty.”

Trump aims to reduce both legal and illegal immigration, compelling employers to hire more U.S. workers, according to Yale-Loehr. He said the Republican nominee’s proposed policies aim to increase enforcement of immigration laws, repeal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, limit visas for foreign workers, institute “extreme vetting” against Muslims and require all employers to electronically verify the status of their workers.

However, Yale-Loehr noted that “at the national level, immigrants are not taking away jobs from Americans,” citing a report spearheaded by Prof. Francine Blau, economics.

The report outlines that while “immigrants are competing for jobs in the low-wage sector … immigration is not the primary reason [citizens who have not finished high school] cannot find jobs.”

On the other hand, Clinton’s policies — which include include increasing visas for workers, reducing backlogs, systemic reforms, and an increased numbers of “properly screened” refugees — reflect a “much more positive” view, according to Yale-Loehr.

He assured the audience that, either way, “it takes time to make changes in our immigration system. You don’t have to worry that these things are going to happen overnight. So don’t worry, nothing is really going to happen in 2017.”

The professor concluded by recalling that the United States’s motto — E Pluribus Unum or “one out of many” — reflects the country’s pride in its immigrant origins.

“Remember that the United States is a land of immigrants,” he said. “We always have been and, as far as I know, we always will be. The more that people learn about the benefits of immigration, the more that we can get over this rhetoric and go on to becoming a better country for all.”