Thank you Mr Trump! How Trump has helped Immigration…really

Adapted from an article originally published in

Immigration is all over the news these days, making front page headlines with such wild claims as :”Lawmakers, After Meeting With ICE, Say ALL Undocumented Immigrants at Risk of Deportation.

Trump is making headlines all over the news for our current “immigration crisis”,  but after more than 20 years exclusively practicing immigration law, I wanted to thank our new president.


Yes. Because Trump has put a spotlight on an issue that has been around for decades, and that I’m happy to see finally making front page news.

You see, America has been a dangerous place for the undocumented for a very long time.

In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed both the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act.

These laws destroyed previous immigration legislation. Immigrant rights were torn apart in countless ways. If there had been social media back then, perhaps the outrage felt by immigration advocates would have been shared by millions of Americans.

Or maybe not.

After all, in eight years, President Barack Obama deported more immigrants than all presidents of the 20th century combined. Yet when ABC announced that information, there were no widespread protests. Despite Obama’s frequent refrain that he was removing “gangbangers,” statistics by the the Department of Homeland Security showed that the vast majority of those deportations were noncriminals.

In other words, undocumented immigrants. Millions of them.

Now, it is true that there was some level of discomfort among US citizens during the Obama Administration. The hashtag, “#DeporterInChief,” even trended on Twitter.

Quite a reaction to an estimated deportation aggregate that just fell short of three million, including young mothers and children attempting to escape nations ripped apart by horrific violence.

President Donald Trump has succeeded where his recent predecessors failed.

Trump has managed to bring immigration to the forefront of discussions in the United States.

As CNN reported, the American Civil Liberties Union received more than $24 million in online donations in one weekend; that’s 6 x more than their donations in an average YEAR.

For those of us who fought as President Clinton not only signed those 1996 laws which eviscerated immigrants’ rights –– but also had his lawyers argue in the United States Supreme Court to narrow habeas corpus for aliens — it has become a matter of Better Late than Never.

Immigrants owe a debt of gratitude to President Trump.

He is following up on a campaign promise to deport them. Suddenly millions of Americans are outraged.

Never mind that Obama’s Justice Department fought in the Supreme Court to uphold mandatory detention of aliens as constitutional.

The irony in all of this rancor has its genesis in the laws signed by Clinton — in his efforts to show that he was tough on immigration — while campaigning for reelection.

All Trump has to do is enforce laws signed more than two decades ago. In fact, when I was a young attorney starting out, my first media appearance was a local New York AM radio station. Back then, I tried to explain this brand new Expedited Removal was radical and dangerous. I stated on the air that this procedure would allow Border Patrol Agents to act as judge, jury and executioner.

In the latest memoranda signed by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, that same expedited removal has been designated as a tool to target millions.

Better Late Than Never

Twenty years ago, all but a handful of Americans were paying attention.

In fact, 20 weeks ago, the same could be said. Most experts gave Trump a chance of between 10 and 20 percent of winning the White House.

Thus, I wish to thank our new president.

Without Trump, another chief executive, perhaps Hillary Clinton, would have been inaugurated. Another three million immigrants would have been likely deported. Now, the probability is that the same amount of deportations will occur under President Trump.

The difference, of course, is the American reaction. Everywhere I turn, folks voice their strong opinions on these anti-immigrant activities. They want to volunteer to assist longtime immigration advocates.

I can’t help but quote Bruce Willis’ iconic action hero, John McClane:

“Welcome to the party, pal!”


Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

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