Immigration Law Expert Speaks on Future of DACA at RHPL

Professor Jonathan Weinberg - Screenshot from 2015 lecture via Wayne Law Youtube.


Wayne State Law Professor Jonathan Weinberg shared his thoughts on the future of U.S. immigration laws under President Trump in a lecture at the Rochester Hills Public Library on Monday, February 12.

Weinberg graduated from Columbia Law School and previously served as a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and then-judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In his lecture, he highlighted three main components of immigration law that President Trump aims to eliminate: immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries, chain migration and the Diversity Visa Lottery.

Weinberg said we will have to “wait and see” on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision regarding immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries. He’s more confident that the Diversity Visa Lottery, a system that allocated a small number of visas on a lottery basis to countries with low levels of migration, will be eliminated completely.

In his 2018 State of the Union Address, President Trump said the lottery program “randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit or the safety of American people.”

Weinberg said data shows we shouldn’t be concerned about visa lottery winners. “Near as we can tell, diversity visa winners are in fact better educated than the general population of American citizens,” he said. “It looks as if half of them have Bachelor degrees, which is more than Americans as a whole.”

Trump has also actively spoken against what he calls chain migration, also known as family-based migration, which allows U.S. citizens or green card holders to sponsor family members looking to immigrate into the country.

Weinberg noted that this is an ironic move by Trump considering the president’s family history. “This is sort of ironic I guess since if this had been in place when President Trump’s family came to this country, neither his dad’s parents who emigrated from Germany nor his mom who emigrated from Scotland would have in fact been able to enter,” Weinberg said.

Weinberg is confident that so-called “chain migration” will live to see another day. “I think this proposal from the President is dead on arrival in Congress – it’s not going to be enacted,” he said. “It would eliminate categories of migration that currently amount to about a quarter of all legal immigration to the U.S. today.”

He’s less confident about the future of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA), which Trump announced he would end back in September 2017. Weinberg explained that Republicans in the House of Representatives are now seeking to use DACA and the dreamers as a bargaining chip for larger negotiations like cuts to family-based immigration.

Weinberg argues this deal will not be made, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dreamers falling out of status. “I think the two sides are far apart – what House Republicans are willing to accept and say and what House Democrats are willing to accept does not have common ground,” he said.

“I expect the Senate is going to pass a clean bill extending DACA protection only to die in the House.”

Weinberg also shared his personal views on immigration, and reminded the audience that he and many others in the room are products of immigrants. “My grandparents got here on lifeboats and climbed up a ladder, and none of my relatives got killed in the Holocaust because we’d gotten lucky enough to the U.S. before that happened,” he said. “I’m reluctant to turn around I’ve climbed up the ladder from the lifeboat and into the ship and say, you can pull up that ladder now.”

He continued: “I’m not sure that the people who are trying to come to us today trying to make a better life for themselves or for their children are any less morally deserving or any less skilled, hardworking or capable of contributing to this country than my grandparents were.”