Public Expect Immigration Reform: Center for Immigration Studies

The public expects the Trump administration to carry out immigration reforms, and will have “little patience” for lawmakers if their inactivity results in critical reforms not occurring, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) has said.

In a new review of the first 100 days of the Trump administration on the immigration issue, titled “Assessing the Trump Administration’s Immigration Track Record,” the CIS said that the administration’s efforts at implementing its immigration agenda has been, and will continue to be, met at every step with determined resistance, not least by using “lawfare” through the federal court system.

“It is the equivalent of trench warfare, and the Trump White House will be obliged to show equal determination, and a long-term strategic and tactical commitment to defending itself against the lawsuits with sufficient and well-prepared legal resources in order to prevail.”

The CIS went on to recommend that the Trump administration “might also steal a chapter from that playbook, and strategically initiate some of its own in judicial districts and circuits which are likely to support key initiatives, and which will drain the coffers, time, and energy of open borders advocacy groups in defending against the lawsuits, in the same way that they are attempting to do against the government and its resources.”

Even more importantly, the CIS said, “further gains may well depend on whether congressional Republicans get on board with the administration’s immigration priorities and begin promoting a vigorous agenda to get long overdue legislation passed.

“A public that ‘hired’ Donald Trump as president will have little tolerance for inactivity from our lawmakers if the result is that critical reforms don’t take place,” and a “key take-away lesson from the Obama presidency is that, if we value checks and balances in government, not everything in government can, or should, be done by executive order.”

With regard to what the Trump administration has done so far, the CIS said it has “done well” although there is “much yet to be achieved, and in some areas campaign promises have not been met.”

The report’s review said that the administration “kicked off with a bang, issuing no fewer than three presidential executive orders (EOs) within weeks of inauguration, serially addressing border control (including construction of the border wall), interior enforcement, and transnational border- and immigration-related crime, including drug and people smuggling.”

Among other things, the EOs directed the expeditious hiring of 5,000 new Border Patrol agents, hundreds of new air-and-marine officers for Customs and Border Patrol, and 10,000 new interior immigration enforcement agents.

The EOs in turn were followed quickly by policy memoranda from Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly and Attorney General Jeff Sessions making it clear that they were committed “to vigorous prosecution of immigration offenses, including alien smuggling and transporting, illegal entry and reentry after deportation, and drug and weapons crimes.”

As many media outlets have noted, illegal border crossings are markedly down since President Trump took office. That is a good sign, and indicates that aliens are taking the rhetoric of the president and his staff seriously.

“Some have claimed that this signals that a border wall isn’t really needed. But we have seen such dips before—for instance, after passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986—and whether the slowdown becomes institutionalized will depend in no small measure on the willingness and ability of the administration to put action to its words,” the CIS said.

“Smuggling organizations and the illegal aliens themselves will at some point begin testing our border enforcement resolve and whether illegal crossers will be detained upon being apprehended or allowed to settle in the United States, as was the norm during the Obama presidency.”

With regards to the building of the a border wall, the CIS said that it was “important that the border barrier proceed expeditiously, so that it becomes one of several layered defenses that render it unnecessary to choose between detaining or releasing tidal waves of humans attempting to cross.

“While there appears to be some willingness on the part of Congress to consider technology and additional resources, it has balked about funding the wall itself, and Democratic legislators have threatened a shutdown of the government rather than pass a budget that contains funding for the wall.

“It seems likely (as of this writing) that Republicans will cave on the issue of funding the wall for the moment. We are concerned about throwing good money after bad on other forms of layered border security, though. While the fledging drone program at Customs and Border Protection (CBP), parent agency to the Border Patrol, sounds cutting edge—and may be an excellent pork project for certain senators and representatives, as well as the drone manufacturing industry—there is little evidence that it has worked effectively or cost efficiently.”

The most important improvements in immigration security have been the reversal of the Obama administration’s version of “catch and release” at the border and ending the disastrous prioritization scheme that resulted in tens of thousands of deportable aliens (including many criminals and egregious immigration scofflaws) escaping removal each year.

Now most new arrivals are either turned back right away or held in custody, and if they ask for asylum, their claims are reviewed promptly by a group of asylum officers and immigration judges that were recently deployed to the border areas.

Several temporary holding facilities were set up, and a plan to house up to 12,500 people was adopted.

Plans were made to conduct deportation proceedings by videoconference. In addition, the administration issued new guidance to asylum officers directing that cases must now be adjudicated according to the law, rather than according to a relaxed standard or review that leaned heavily in favor of approval.

As it turned out, the deployment of asylum officers and judges and the new detention space was not needed as much as expected, because following the implementation of the new policies, the number of new illegal arrivals declined dramatically, bringing border apprehensions to a 17-year low.

Within the country, ICE officers and agents have been directed to exercise their authority under a new enforcement prioritization scheme that does not exempt most illegal aliens from enforcement, as was the case under Obama policies.

As has always been the case, the majority of ICE deportation cases are still criminal aliens who come to ICE’s attention after an arrest on state or local charges, or after incarceration. The big difference is that now ICE officers can act on any deportable alien as soon as they are encountered, and detain the aliens if appropriate, so that the person is actually removed, held accountable for any local crimes, and does not have the opportunity to flee from deportation.

ICE has increased its detention capacity by 1,100 beds, and made plans to acquire 21,000 additional beds if funding is made available.

Equally important, ICE officers are no longer told that they must look the other way at deportable aliens who have committed ID theft, been charged with minor crimes, have family members here, or have advocacy groups orchestrating a campaign for leniency on their behalf. Criminals are still the priority, but anyone here illegally is potentially subject to deportation.

The president’s FY 2018 budget blueprint requests $15 million to begin implementation of nationwide E-Verify which will make allow for employers to check the work authorization of new hires. This will still be voluntary because making it mandatory for all new hires nationwide would require separate legislation from Congress.

The administration has signaled it will roll back two of its predecessor’s more egregious decisions: 1) the granting of work permits to the spouses of H-1B workers (who are supposed to be here only on a temporary status); and 2) the extension of OPT (Optional Practical Training) status to some alien college grads working in high tech industries, enabling them to stay to work for as long as 24 months after graduation.

Much needs to be done to cut back the H-1B program to its original design—to allow employers to hire skilled individuals from abroad to fill certain types of positions—and address one common current abuse, which is to replace American workers with lower-paid guest workers.

The administration has taken steps to tackle the rampant fraud in the legal immigration system by detailing fraud officers to the border facilities and increasing the number of fraud officers who work on asylum cases.

In addition, ICE has been directed to resurrect the important Document and Benefit Fraud Task Forces throughout the country, which work cooperatively to target document fraud rings, immigration fraud schemes, and identity theft problems, all of which are part of the criminal infrastructure that supports illegal immigration and exploitation of our legal immigration system. Further, ICE has been directed to bring more immigration fraud and human smuggling cases to prosecutors.

One of candidate Donald Trump’s campaign promises was to roll back the unconstitutional and extra-statutory programs granting a renewable two-year amnesty to so-called “Dreamers”—illegal aliens who came before age 16.

Far from simply providing “protection from deportation,” DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status enables an illegal alien to get a work permit, a Social Security number, a state driver’s license, and access to certain welfare programs.

It appears to have been easier for the candidate than for the elected president to take the matter head-on. So far, nothing has been done to dismantle the program. In fact, USCIS continues not only to renew the status of DACA recipients, but is continuing to approve new applications, actually expanding the number of people covered by this amnesty and giving it the de facto imprimatur of the current president.

The principle of defunding sanctuaries was also embedded in the president’s EOs, and was quickly followed up by announcements from AG Sessions that DOJ would be doing exactly that. The DOJ had already put 10 of the most egregious sanctuaries on notice of possible debarment and clawback of prior grants, and gave several sanctuary jurisdictions until June 30 to comply with federal law (specifically 8 U.S.C. 1373). One of these jurisdictions (Miami-Dade County, Florida) has already reversed its policy.

Another part of the administration’s struggle to get sanctuary cities to comply with the law is a weekly report listing instances of criminal aliens released by sanctuary cities. This was temporarily suspended due to problems with data collection, but is expected to be restarted, and may well prove a potent tool in building political support for confronting cities, counties, and states that take immigration-enforcement decisions into their own hands by deciding if and when they will cooperate with ICE.

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