Few were surprised by the controversy set off by Donald Trump’s nomination of Jeff Sessions for attorney general.
Byron York of the Washington Examiner writes that, over the years, Democrats and others in the press have branded the Alabama senator a racist. Even now, anti-Trump folks are using Sessions’ full name — Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III — to emphasize his ties to the Old South, with its suggested racism.
As such, York says efforts will intensify to stop the confirmation of the Senate’s “highest-profile, most determined, and most knowledgeable opponent of comprehensive immigration reform.”
“Democrats are particularly anxious about immigration because of the unusually tenuous nature of President Obama’s policies on the issue,” York notes. “Those policies can be undone unilaterally, by the new president in some cases, and by the attorney general and head of Homeland Security in other cases. There’s no need for congressional action — and no way for House or Senate Democrats to slow or stop it.”
Although extensive immigration laws are currently books — approved by bipartisan majorities in Congress — Obama was looking to make significant changes, which Congress resisted.
Thus, Obama just stopped enforcing provisions of the law with which he disagreed.
York says a significant change in immigration policy of the United States would also be the simplest —no congressional approval needed — just by the Trump administration resuming enforcement of those laws.
Among those laws: deportation of those who entered the U.S. illegally, deportation of people who entered the U.S. illegally and later committed crimes, as well as laws enforcing immigration compliance at the worksite. There are also laws governing immigrants overstaying visas; Laws requiring local governments to comply with federal immigration law.
Many of those immigration laws have been relaxed or even completely ignored by the Obama administration.
York says one immediate change from a Trump administration could be to end Obama’s Priority Enforcement Program, which began in 2014. PEP made it nearly impossible for Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to begin deportation proceedings until a person in the country illegally is convicted of an aggravated felony or multiple misdemeanors.
Obama’s strategy “forced local ICE offices to release of thousands of deportable criminals,” says Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, “including Eswin Mejia, an illegal immigrant with prior arrests who killed 21-year old Sarah Root in Omaha, Nebraska, while drag-racing drunk in January of this year. Like many of the 86,000 convicted criminals released by ICE since 2013, Mejia is now a fugitive but considered a ‘noncriminal,’ because he has yet to be tried and convicted of Root’s death.”
In a study by the Center for Immigration Studies, there are 79 policies of the Obama administration Trump could change without any action by Congress.
Among the things Trump and Sessions could do, York says, are:
1) End the embargo on worksite enforcement. “Experience has shown that employers respond very quickly and voluntarily implement compliance measures when there is an uptick in enforcement,” Vaughan notes, “because they see the potential damage to their operations and public image for being caught and prosecuted.”
2) Restore ICE’s authority to make expedited removals of those here in the country illegally who are felons or who have recently crossed into the United States.
3) Tighten requirements for H-1B visas, including banning such visas for low-salary, low-skill jobs, revoking visas that are followed by layoffs of American workers, and other measures.
4) Stop suing states which act to support immigration enforcement, supporting such enforcement instead. After Arizona’s notorious SB 1070 law, Obama cracked down, arguing the federal government has the sole authority to enforce immigration law, and to not enforce immigration law. A President Trump and Attorney General Sessions could choose to implement the law.
5) Force sanctuary cities to observe the law. Trump campaigned extensively about sanctuary cities, mentioning San Francisco murder victim Kate Steinle in many speeches. Sessions could enforce existing law, 8 USC 1373, which prohibits local communities from banning their officials from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. Federal agencies, including the Justice Department, give billions of dollars in federal grants. By not forcing grant recipients to comply with federal law, York says the Obama administration ignored 8 USC 1373. A Justice Department inspector general told a House committee in September that, “we found that the Department had not provided grant recipients with clear guidance as to whether Section 1373 was an applicable federal law with which recipients were expected to comply.”