How Could the Trump Administration Impact Law in 2017?

It is not difficult to imagine what an impact the administration of Donald Trump will have on law in 2017. Already, the administration is pitted in a high-profile court battle over its recent controversial immigration executive order. While the administration’s policies and stances will likely have a ripple effect to every area of law, ranging from corporate to health care, the two most prominent areas of law affected by Trump at the moment are immigration and employment.

Immigration law

The premise of immigration law centers around attorneys working with clients at every stage of the naturalization process. While the practice and nature of this field varies greatly depending on the region of the country, it is largely influenced by political actions, international treaties and situations occurring around the world, such as the Syrian refugee crisis or influx of immigration from Mexico. This particular area of law deals with everything from undocumented immigrant populations to refugee and asylum seekers.

Immigration, specifically the issue of undocumented persons entering the country unlawfully, has been a fiercely debated and controversial issue in the past few decades. The rise in refugee and asylum seekers internationally, along with worsening economic conditions of developing countries has led to increased scrutiny and higher caseloads for immigration lawyers. While immigration has been a hot-button topic in recent years, it is not a new phenomenon.

Whether it was the drastic rise in immigration during the Industrial Revolution or influx of asylum seekers during World War II, America is no stranger to immigration. The Trump administration’s hard-line stance on refugees and immigration has already had severe impacts on immigration law in the first two months of 2017 alone. On Jan 27, Trump signed the executive order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” which temporary bans individuals from Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen from entering the country.

Past presidents have also restricted entry to certain groups of people or countries, citing national security concerns but this executive order has faced particularly significant backlash as many immigration law experts and the general public allege it unfairly targets Muslim refugees. Interestingly, while the executive order cites 9/11 and the aftermath as one of the catalysts for this legislation, Greg Myre, NPR’s International Editor and other experts, revealed that the order does not include countries where radicalized Muslim individuals have carried out terror attacks in the U.S. since 9/11.

Following the immediate enactment of this executive order, chaos began to unfold at airports across the country, where visa holders from these seven countries began to arrive and were either detained or sent back to their original country. Stories circulated that even green card holders and American citizens arriving from these countries were held as well. As a result, members from state and federal judiciary branches stepped in to challenge the action.

A federal judge from Seattle temporarily halted the ban, yet the case then went to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to debate the legality of the order. The Department of Justice cites the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) in support of the president’s decision. While the dissenters argue that the ban is unconstitutional. The Circuit Court delivered their verdict not to reinstate the ban on the evening of Feb. 9. Now, the case is expected to move to the higher courts.

According to section 212(f) of the INA, “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”

In addition to this executive order, the American Immigration Lawyers Association explained that the Trump administration is very likely to work to end other executive orders regarding immigration as well, such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. Experts also expect there to be more frequent or aggressive Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 audits under Trump, which has caused a stir among the workforce, particularly in the tech industry.

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Employment law

The nature of employment law centers around the relationship between employer and their workforce. Attorneys in this field deal with a wide range of issues, such as harassment, hiring or workplace discrimination and federal workplace safety compliance. In this field, lawyers may represent individual workers, employers or government regulatory agencies, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

There are several ways the new administration may impact employment law. Labor law experts are paying most attention to overtime legislation, federal regulations and the Department of Labor (DOL) as a whole.

In regards to overtime laws, the federal overtime law proposed and signed by former President Barack Obama was set to bring overtime wage increases to millions of working Americans. This was blocked by a federal judge late last year and the outcome of the lawsuit is still pending. Most experts believe Trump will be against this overtime wage hike.

With a Republican controlled Congress, there will likely be a push for fewer federal regulations, as supported by conservative party officials and the Trump administration. The lessening of federal workplace safety and compliance laws, such as OSHA recordkeeping and reporting standards, will give states more control. This means that employment attorneys will need to pay closer attention to regulation developments in their particular area of practice.

Trump recently nominated Alexander Acosta, a former Justice Department official and current dean of Florida International University College of Law, as his pick for the Secretary of Labor. The Labor Secretary will determine how the DOL is staffed and how the agency conducts investigations into employment law violations and how these cases are resolved.

Prior to Acosta, Trump nominated Andrew Puzder, the chief executive of CKE Restaurants, for the role. Democratic backlash against Puzder’s nomination led to the repeated pushback of his confirmation hearing. Puzder also faced harsh criticism of his workers’ rights record during his tenure overseeing the Carl’s Jr. and Hardees restaurant chain. These issues, among other reasons, led to Puzder withdrawing his name from consideration mid-February.

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