Contributor: Sarah Leon*

National security has been and will always be a priority for the United States. However, due to the recent terrorist attacks all over the world, specifically those in the United States, President Donald Trump has advocated for the enforcement of even stronger immigration laws and border control policies.[1] Specifically, President Trump has expanded the use of expedited removal via Executive Order No. 13767, Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements.[2]

Expedited removal allows Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials to order the immediate removal of an inadmissible alien, subject to exceptions,[3] without further hearing or review.[4] To date, DHS  has limited the use of expedited removal to aliens arriving at a port of entry without proper documentations and to aliens apprehended within 14 days of their arrival and within 100 air miles of a United States land border.[5] However, following the executive order, DHS Secretary John Kelly released a memorandum stating that there will be changes to the previous limitations.[6] Expedited removal is now expected to apply nationwide to aliens who cannot establish that they have been in the U.S. physically and continuously for two years.[7] This unlimited use of expedited removal essentially tramples on the due process rights of many immigrants, who will no longer be allowed to present their case to an immigration judge.[8]

The executive order also authorizes state and local law enforcement agencies to function as immigration officers.[9] As described in Trump’s order, these functions include the “investigation, apprehension, or detention” of immigrants in the United States.[10] Enabling state and local agencies to enforce immigration laws is not a new phenomenon. Since the 1990s, Congress has created numerous programs encouraging partnership between federal and state agencies to enforce immigration laws.[11] Similarly, states began to create and engage in their own form of immigration enforcement, adopting policies known as “sanctuary” policies.[12] Sanctuary policies limit the cooperation between state and local law enforcement officers and federal immigration agencies.[13] Specifically, cities often refuse to comply with federal detainers, a tool used by DHS officials to identify potentially illegal immigrants.[14] In order to address these issues, President Trump has threatened to withhold federal grants from these so-called “sanctuary” cities until they start to cooperate with federal immigration agencies.[15] However, enlisting local police officers to act as immigration officials may harm the relationship between these local officers and lawful immigrant communities. Critics have argued that this course of action may lead to racial profiling and may divert the focus to finding illegal immigrants rather than protecting local constituents from crime.[16] Moreover, immigrant communities may feel less inclined to report crime out of fear of arrest or deportation, thus undermining their trust in local law enforcement.[17]

President Trump’s policies, while aimed at ending illegal immigration and promoting national security, are likely to have unintended consequences. The executive orders not only affect those who seek refugee status, but also affect human trafficking victims and their ability to receive help in the United States. Refugees are among some of the most at risk populations for human trafficking.[18] Refugees have been forced to leave their home country in fear of persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.[19] Because of their plight, refugees are often left in precarious situations.[20] These precarious situations lead to vulnerability, which is exactly what traffickers “prey” on.[21] Traffickers exploit a refugee’s need to cross borders and exploit a refugee’s displacement and homelessness by offering them false promises of shelter, paid work, and a better life.[22] When border control policies make it quasi-impossible to enter the country,[23] refugees turn to traffickers who seemingly provide solutions to their troubles.[24] Moreover, when refugees come to countries like the U.S., usually without any documentation, they are treated like criminals and some are never even given the chance to apply for asylum.[25] Thus, President Trump’s immigration policies are likely to have adverse effects on human trafficking victims in the U.S. who need to be helped, not removed.


* Sarah Leon is a third year law student at the Florida State University College of Law. Sarah plans on practicing corporate law after she graduates, having already accepted a job offer at a law firm in Fort Lauderdale where she will be in the litigation department. Though her future plans involve business litigation, Sarah has always found international law to be fascinating; specifically, Sarah is interested in refugee and human trafficking laws and how the two are often intertwined. Sarah is currently pursuing her international law certificate and is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Transnational Law & Policy.


[1] See President Donald J. Trump, Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress, U.S. Gov’t Pub. Off. 1, 2 (2017), https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/DCPD-201700150/pdf/DCPD-201700150.pdf (last visited Sept. 20, 2017).

[2] Exec. Order No. 13769, 82 Fed. Reg. 13209, 13209-13219 (Mar. 6, 2017), available at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/03/09/2017-04837/protecting-the-nation-from-foreign-terrorist-entry-into-the-united-states (last visited Sept. 20, 2017); Exec. Order No. 13767, 82 Fed. Reg. 8793, 8793-8797 (Jan. 25, 2017), available at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/01/30/2017-02095/border-security-and-immigration-enforcement-improvements (last visited Sept. 20, 2017).

[3] By law, expedited removal does not apply to asylum seekers nor aliens who demonstrate a fear of persecution if returned to their home country. Such aliens are referred to an asylum officer who conducts an interview to determine whether or not the alien’s fear of persecution is credible. 8 U.S.C § 1225 (b)(1)(A)(ii); see also 8 U.S.C. § 1158(b)(1)(B)(iii) (2009) (listing the relevant factors to be considered during the credibility determination, including the demeanor, candor, or responsiveness of the applicant or witness).

[4] 8 U.S.C. § 1225(b)(1)(A)(i) (2009).

[5] Designating Aliens for Expedited Removal, 69 Fed. Reg. 48877, 48880 (Aug. 11, 2004).

[6] Secretary John Kelly, U.S. Dep’t of Homeland Sec., Implementing the President’s Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvement Policies 6 (Feb. 20, 2017) available at https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/17_0220_S1_Implementing-the-Presidents-Border-Security-Immigration-Enforcement-Improvement-Policies.pdf (last visited Sept. 20, 2017).

[7] Alan Gomez, Trump’s Quick Deportation Plan May Be Illegal, Past Immigration Chiefs Say, USA Today (Feb. 24, 2017, 10:20 AM), http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2017/02/24/president-trumps-expedited-removal-plan-may-be-illegal/98276078/ (last visited Sept. 20, 2017). According to DHS Secretary John Kelly, expedited removals will now be applied to the fullest extent of the law. Secretary Kelly stated that he would publish a notice in the Federal Register designating those aliens subject to expedited removal. However, this notice has yet to be published.

[8]A Primer on Expedited Removal, Am. Immigr. Council 1 (Feb. 2017), https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/sites/default/files/research/a_primer_on_expedited_removal.pdf (last visited Sept. 19, 2017).

[9] Exec. Order No. 13767, 82 Fed. Reg. at 8795.

[10] Id.

[11] See generally 8 U.S.C. § 1357(g) (commonly referred to as 287(g) programs).

[12] Barbara E. Armacost, “Sanctuary” Laws: The New Immigration Federalism, 2016 Mich. St. L. Rev. 1197, 1202 (2016) (arguing that sanctuary laws represent a form of “immigration federalism,” in which states adopt policies that “best effectuate a productive relationship between authorities and their immigrant communities”).

[13] Id.

[14] See id at 1198; see also Immigration Detainers: An Overview, Am. Immigration Council 1, 1 (2017), https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/sites/default/files/research/immigration_detainers_an_overview_0.pdf (last visited Sept. 20, 2017).

[15] Exec. Order No. 13768 82 Fed. Reg. 8799, 8801 (Jan. 25, 2017), available at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/01/30/2017-02102/enhancing-public-safety-in-the-interior-of-the-united-states (last visited Sept. 20, 2017). A judge in San Francisco recently blocked President Trump’s attempt to withhold federal grants from sanctuary cities, holding that President Trump overstepped his executive powers by placing conditions on federal funds. President Trump has publicly criticized the judge who ruled against him. The U.S. Justice Dep’t now plans to appeal this court order. U.S. to Appeal Ruling Blocking Trump Funding Cuts on Sanctuary Cities, Reuters (Sept. 18, 2017, 4:15 PM), https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-sanctuary/u-s-to-appeal-ruling-blocking-trump-funding-cuts-on-sanctuary-cities-idUSKCN1BT2IU (last visited Sept. 20, 2017).

[16] Armacost, “Sanctuary” Laws, supra note 11, at 1201; see also Rick Su, Police Discretion and Local Immigration Policymaking, 79 UMKC L. Rev. 901, 915-916 (2011).

[17] See Armacost, “Sanctuary” Laws, supra note 11, at 1201.

[18] Dep’t of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 20 (2016), available at https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/258876.pdf (last visited Sept. 20, 2017).

[19] What is a Refugee, UN Refugee Agency, http://www.unrefugees.org/what-is-a-refugee/ (last visited Sept. 20, 2017).

[20] Anne P. Wilson, Trafficking Risks for Refugees, Lutheran Immigr. & Refugee Serv., Nov. 2011, at 1, available at http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1003&context=humtraffconf3 (last visited Sept. 20, 2017).

[21] Supra note 17, at 8.

[22] Id; see also Rachel Buchan, The Syrian Refugee Crisis: A Greenhouse for Human Trafficking, Human Rights First (Aug. 16, 2016), http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/blog/syrian-refugee-crisis-greenhouse-human-trafficking (last visited Sept. 20, 2017).

[23] President Trump has authorized the construction of a physical wall along the United States-Mexico border. Due to the limited nature of this blog post, I am unable to discuss the adverse affects the wall may have on human trafficking. However, for a comprehensive analysis on how increasing border security may increase human trafficking, see James C. Hathaway, The Human Rights Quagmire of “Human Trafficking,” 49 Va. J. Int’l L. 1 (2008).

[24] Supra note 17, at 21.

[25] See generally Summary of Executive Order “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” Am. Immigr. Council (Feb. 27, 2017), https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/border-security-and-immigration-enforcement-improvements-executive-order (last visited Sept. 20, 2017).

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