Wall Street Journal
By Laura Meckler
November 9, 2016
Donald Trump’s campaign was built on anger at illegal immigration, and as president, he will have the chance to try and put many of his ideas for additional enforcement into action.
He called for mass deportations, a temporary ban on Muslim entries, an “ideological test” for new arrivals and a wall along the U.S. southern border, paid for by Mexico. He promised to kill President Barack Obama’s executive actions, which include a program offering reprieve for many young people brought to the U.S. as children.
But the president-elect’s positions haven’t always been consistent. At times he has said he would deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants, and at other times he has said he would focus on those who commit crimes, which is similar to the Obama administration’s policy.
Still, his campaign was built on the notion of tougher enforcement, and advocates for that course are expecting a quick change in policy from the Obama years.
“We certainly expect he will keep the promises he made throughout the campaign,” said Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates curbs on legal and illegal immigration. “We would expect him to pick up pace and remove more people.”
Mr. Trump supports other tougher enforcement measures, as well: a tracking system to make sure people who arrive on visas leave when they are supposed to, and expanded use of the E-Verify system to keep employers from hiring people who don’t have work authorization.
He would be able to implement some of the ideas on his own, but others would require congressional approval.
Mr. Obama used executive authority to set immigration “enforcement priorities,” which Mr. Trump would be free to reverse or revise. Under the Obama guidelines, the prime targets for deportation are recent border crossers and longer-term illegal immigrants who have been convicted of crimes. Most others are able to live here without significant fear of being sent away.
In addition, in 2012, Mr. Obama used executive action to grant reprieve from deportation to more than 700,000 young people who were brought to the U.S. as children, a program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Mr. Trump called it “executive amnesty” and promised to kill it.
Mr. Trump also promised to end an expansion of that program to many parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. That 2014 policy has been held up in the courts and not implemented.
Other aspects of his enforcement agenda would probably require congressional approval.
Democrats have been willing to go along with stricter border security and enforcement but only as part of a package that also includes a legalization program. It is quite possible that the Democratic minority in the Senate would block any enforcement legislation that doesn’t also resolve the status of the people currently in the country without authorization.
Despite Mr. Trump’s assurances, Mexican officials have said they aren’t paying for a wall between the two countries. So to construct it, Mr. Trump would need a congressional appropriation. Asked earlier this year whether he would go along with the funding, House Speaker Paul Ryan didn’t answer directly. “Remember, we’re not going to pay for that,” he said.
Even if Mr. Trump did get Mexico to pick up the tab, such as by diverting money that Mexicans in the U.S. remit back home, congressional appropriations would be needed to begin the design and contracting process, to secure land rights and begin construction, said Michelle Mittelstadt of the nonpartisan Migration Policy Center. “Without upfront investments from Congress, it could take years and years to generate the funds necessary to build the wall,” she said.
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