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The year of the migrant: Family separation, asylum bans and the wall

Illustration of an American flag with a chain link fence in the stars area, and barbed wire making up the stripes.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Trump administration unleashed in 2018 a staggering number of policies, rules and proclamations intended to obstruct U.S. immigration.

Driving the news: The House and Senate failed to reach a compromise on immigration legislation, leaving the Trump administration to use everything within its executive power to address the issue. Many of those efforts were blocked (at least temporarily) by the courts.

At the border:

The Justice Department and Homeland Security announced a "zero-tolerance" policy in May that resulted in the traumatic separation of thousands of migrant children from their parents at the border. In the face of global backlash, Trump signed an executive order calling for an end to family separation. But it took government agencies weeks of chaos to reunite migrant families.

Through the executive branch:

In the courts:

The Supreme Court upheld Trump's travel ban, but blocked his asylum ban for migrants who cross the border illegally. The court did not take up the DACA case —protecting thousands of immigrants who came to the U.S. as children until at least next year.

Federal judges blocked (at least temporarily) administration efforts to end:

On the global stage:

The U.S. was one of a small number of nations to vote against the UN Compact for Migration and Compact for Refugees.

  • A wave of anti-immigration politics and rhetoric continued to sweep Europe, mirroring some of Trump's 2016 platform.
  • Most recently, the U.S. cut a deal with a Mexico to keep migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. on Mexican soil until their applications are processed. The U.S. pledged billions of dollars in aid to Central American nations and southern Mexico.

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