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NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President-elect Donald Trump will be able to make many of his promised changes in immigration policy unilaterally by exercising the same kind of executive powers he criticized President Barack Obama for using.

But while most of the measures laid out in a ten-point immigration policy plan on Trump’s transition website could be set in motion without legislative approval, fully implementing them would require funding that Congress would have to approve, legal experts said.

Two core pieces of Trump’s plan, for example, involve removing more criminal immigrants who are in the country illegally and ending “catch and release” of those who cross the border illegally and are awaiting court hearings.

Shifting policy on both issues could be accomplished by putting out new enforcement directives to agents in the field from the Department of Homeland Security.

But the changes would be expensive, requiring a dramatic expansion of immigration courts and detention facilities used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said  Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration law expert at Cornell Law School.

More deportations would require more staff at every level of the system to investigate, apprehend and process those targeted. Immigration courts already have a backload of more than 500,000 cases. Detention space is currently stretched to house 41,000 immigrants currently awaiting deportation or hearings and far more holding facilities would be needed if detainees were no longer released while awaiting court dates.

Even then, completely ending the release of immigrants awaiting hearings would be difficult: A recent court decision has prohibited detention longer than 20 days for adults and children migrating together, a demographic that surged to more than 77,000 in fiscal year 2016.

Trump’s transition team has not explained how the new president intends to implement his plans.

“The President-elect is very focused on naming his cabinet, building out his administration and preparing to hit the ground running on Inauguration Day,” said Jason Miller, a spokesman for the Trump transition team. “There will be plenty of time to discuss detailed policy specifics after the swearing-in.”

Democratic attorneys general and civil rights groups are already busy preparing legal arguments to try to stop Trump’s executive actions should he implement some of his proposals. The pushback will be similar to the challenges Obama faced from Republican attorneys general and conservative groups when he acted alone to try to shield nearly 5 million immigrants from deportation.

FIRST DAYS

Among the easiest immigration promises for Trump to fulfill will be his vow to reverse Obama’s executive orders. The president-elect could eliminate with a pen-stroke Obama’s 2012 policy allowing immigrants brought here illegally as children to apply for work permits, a program known as DACA that Trump has said he will end.

What would happen next is unclear. More than 740,000 people have been approved for deportation relief under the program, and many worry that their addresses and other identifying information could be used by the new administration to target them for deportation.

Steve Legomsky, former chief counsel at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said no laws would prevent the Trump administration from using program records for immigration enforcement, but the president-elect has not said he would do so.

Denying visas to people from countries “where adequate screening cannot occur,” another point on Trump’s immigration plan, could also be easily accomplished by the president.

Under current law, the administration can unilaterally suspend visas for any individuals or groups of people deemed “detrimental to the interests of the United States.”

In the past, presidents have chosen to apply this statute narrowly – to keep out particular dictators or to deal with emergencies, for example. But the law is worded very broadly and could theoretically be applied to entire countries, said David Martin, emeritus professor of international law at University of Virginia School of Law.

Trump’s promise to make legal immigration better serve America and its domestic workforce would likely focus, at least initially, on temporary employment visas such as the H1-B, which are issued to specialized workers in fields such as technology.

While Congress sets the maximum number of visas that can be issued annually, Trump could ask the Department of Justice to step up investigations of companies using those visas, with a focus on whether they are discriminating against American workers. This could include banning more tech outsourcing firms, which are the largest users of H-1B visas, from the program if they violate the rules, said Ron Hira, a professor at Howard University.

“Employers are going to be caught up in the cross hairs,” said business immigration lawyer Matthew Dunn from the law firm Kramer Levin.

(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York and Julia Edwards Ainsley in Washington D.C., additional reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Sue Horton and Mary Milliken)

IMAGE: A young boy holds U.S. flags as immigrants and community leaders rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to mark the one-year anniversary of President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration in Washington, November 20, 2015.REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque  

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Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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