Next week is the election (in case you haven't heard) and hopefully soon after, we will have a result. Whether the victor is Joe Biden or Donald Trump, immigration advocates have their work cut out for them.

If Mr. Trump wins a second term, it won't be because he won the popular vote. It's clear that more Americans will vote for his opponent (as they did in 2016). However, our system awards electoral votes by state, and states with lower populations--which tend to be more conservative--receive disproportionate representation. Perhaps there is some wisdom to this system, which disfavors change, since change is difficult and divisive, especially for those who already have power. Or maybe we would be better off with a system that is more responsive to the will of a simple majority. I am really not sure. In any event, as the President says, it is what it is.

So in terms of immigration, how would a second term look for President Trump? Since early 2017, the Trump Administration has been using its rule-making authority to restrict immigration in a variety of ways. This effort swung into high gear with the advent of the pandemic, and over the past eight months we've seen a barrage of changes, many of which make life more difficult for asylum seekers and immigrants. One thing we have not seen from President Trump is an effort to change the law, even when the Republicans controlled both Houses of Congress (and remember, to change the law, Congress needs to pass a bill and the President has to sign it). Because the law has not changed, President Trump has had to work within the existing law to make regulatory and policy changes. When those changes have gone beyond the bounds of the law, courts have blocked them.

Assuming President Trump wins re-election and Republicans do not control both chambers of Congress (and it is very doubtful that Republicans will take the House), it is unlikely that we would see any positive immigration reform. Mr. Trump has periodically made noise about helping the Dreamers (people brought to the U.S. as children who do not have lawful permanent status here), and so perhaps we could see some bipartisan legislation to regularize their status. Also, there are some other possible areas of cooperation on immigration (temporary seasonal workers and Christian refugees, for example), but those are quite limited.

More likely, if Mr. Trump is granted a second term, we will see more of what we saw during the first term: Travel bans, reduction of due process protections, a weaponized bureaucracy designed to make it more difficult and expensive to obtain legal status in the U.S., regulatory changes that restrict eligibility for asylum and immigration, increased enforcement by ICE, punitive strategies to deter and harm asylum seekers at the border, etc. During the President's first term, some (but not all) of his worst attacks were mitigated by the courts--mostly the lower courts, as the Supreme Court was more deferential to the President's authority. Now, with the confirmation of a new conservative Justice on the Supreme Court, a second Trump Administration may be even less constrained in how it (mis)treats immigrants. All this will make it more difficult for non-citizens to receive the due process and the immigration benefits to which they are entitled under law, and the protection that many need to simply survive.

Finally, and it is no small matter, if Mr. Trump is returned to office, we can expect more lies about who immigrants and asylum seekers are, and about what they do when they get here. Demonizing non-citizens, minorities, and Muslims is an essential part of President Trump's strategy and very unfortunately, his narrative has resonated with a significant portion of the electorate. Aside from fighting the Trump Administration's policies in court, we also have to work to undermine the false narrative that he has been pushing.

In short, I expect that if President Trump is re-elected, we will see most of his restrictive policy changes pass judicial muster and his hateful and false rhetoric continue. All this will make for a difficult and painful situation for non-citizens and many others in our country.

If Joe Biden is elected, there is little doubt that the fate of asylum seekers and immigrants will be better: We can expect an end to the attacks on due process and rule of law, and to the bombardment of lies that we have come to expect about non-citizens. Mr. Biden has promised a number of positive changes, not least of which is to roll back many of President Trump's abusive policies. Nevertheless, even under a Biden Administration, there will be much work to do.

For one thing, while Democrats will likely hold the House, it is quite likely that they will not control the Senate, meaning that any new legislation will have to be bipartisan. On its face, this should be a good thing--the broader the consensus on a new law, the better. However, if a Republican Senate behaves as it did during the Obama Administration, we can look forward to prolonged gridlock on immigration reform (and everything else). Even in a Democratic Senate, it may not be easy to pass comprehensive immigration reform, which has eluded us for decades. Advocates will have to push for legislation with our representatives and with the public.

In addition, it's clear that more work needs to be done to educate the public about asylum seekers and immigrants. Though advocacy groups do significant outreach, the message hasn't landed with many people. Advocates need to think more about how to communicate effectively with those who oppose immigration--how to reach them and how to engage with them.

For me, the choice on November 3rd is obvious. Joe Biden isn't perfect, but he will restore due process and the rule of law to our immigration system. He will also be more honest about asylum seekers and immigrants. In addition, if he charts a moderate and common-sense course on immigration (and other issues), he might help diffuse some of the divisiveness that has grown to dangerous levels in our country. I hope that Mr. Biden is successful and that we see Democrats in charge of both Houses of Congress. But win or lose, immigration advocates will have work to do.

Originally posted on the Asylumist: