Donald Trump’s formal ascension to the presidency is still weeks away, but for non-Americans living in America, fears of what he will do once in power mean that many are starting to evaluate their options now. The fate awaiting undocumented immigrants, beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—President Obama’s executive action known best as DACA—and high-skilled workers from abroad remains unclear in the wake of Trump’s election. And uncertainty about the fate of millions of workers also means uncertainty about the economic repercussions of Trump’s inflammatory-yet vague policy prescriptions on immigration, a key driver of the American workforce.
The lack of clarity has left many turning to immigration lawyers not just for their professional services, but also for reassurance. But that can be difficult to provide. “It's hard to know where to start,” says Claudia Slovinsky, an immigration and nationality attorney in New York who founded her firm in 1980. “There's a lot of anxiety out there. We're all human beings, you sort of stretch out to all of these very incredibly awful possibilities, which produces even more anxiety. Everything changed overnight.”
It might be easy to forget that the sitting president has deported over 2 million immigrants, more than all presidents of the 20th century combined. “It's not like things have been great for immigrants in the last 25, 20 years,” Slovinsky explains. “It's not like, ‘Oh man, there were no deportations and now there are going to be deportations.’” But still, Trump’s rhetoric about deportation, immigrants, walls, and religious bans was more incendiary than what most have seen in generations of national politics, leaving many to worry over where the president-elect will draw a line between campaign bluster and actual policy.