If eight years under Obama rule, 6 of which included Republican majorities in Congress, taught us anything, it’s that Presidents have fairly broad authority to govern through executive orders and rules changes implemented at the 100’s of government agencies responsible for overseeing our every move. Fortunately for the Trump administration, this broad Presidential authority extends to immigration laws and, despite his recent defeat in the 9th Circuit, grants the executive branch of the federal government broad authority on vetting immigrants and enforcing immigration laws. Per Bloomberg:
The law vests the president with broad authority over immigration, said Austin Fragomen, whose Manhattan-based Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy is the biggest U.S. law firm focused on immigration. Trump hasn’t wasted time tapping his power.
The Department of Homeland Security oversees almost two dozen agencies that determine who enters and leaves the U.S., including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection and Citizenship and Immigration Services. The agency has an annual budget of $41 billion and more than 229,000 employees. Trump has broad discretion to use the money and employees as he sees fit without seeking approval from Congress.
In the wake of the 9th Circuit’s decision to overturn his “immigration ban”, Trump initially drew a hard line via the following tweet vowing to continue the litigation of the controversial executive order.
SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 9, 2017
That said, in a fiery, surreal press conference hosted last week, he drew a slightly more subdued tone saying that his administration was working on a revised immigration executive order which would be “tailored to the 9th Circuit decision” (see “In Fiery, “Surreal” Press Conference, Trump Launches War On The Media“).
But, irrespective of how new executive actions on travel bans play out, the fact is that the President of the United States has fairly broad authority under the Constitution to vet new immigrants coming into the country and enforce federal laws once they’re here.
Of course, one option is to simply ramp up the hiring of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to crack down on those currently residing in the country illegally. As we’ve noted before, the Trump administration has already said it will hire 10,000 incremental ICE agents and utilize local law enforcement agents as well.
The president wants to bolster that force, saying he’ll hire 10,000 more agents and use state and local law enforcement as immigration officials. As part of the executive order, Trump vowed to strip funds from so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with his crackdown. Several state attorneys general have vowed to fight that initiative.
“He can essentially unleash ICE officials to enforce however they choose,” said Cristina Rodriguez, a Yale Law School professor, referring to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Moreover, absent policies that target specific groups of immigrants based on nationality, religion, etc., which as the 9th Circuit recently confirmed becomes far more complicated, the executive branch has fairly broad authority to vet incoming immigrants as they see fit.
The president can instruct State Department and ICE officials to tighten criteria for letting people into the U.S. and to increase searches at the border, where agents have much more freedom to rifle through people’s belongings than police inside the country. Trump has said the order will hasten adoption of “extreme vetting” procedures.
Trump has “very broad authority” to tighten entry requirements, particularly if he avoids policies that unfairly single out Muslims or other groups, Fragomen said.
“The only restraint on doing that now is we want to facilitate visitors and people coming to visit the U.S. and facilitate global business,” he said. “But the U.S. could be much more strict in terms of the screening process.”
Meanwhile, just as President Obama demonstrated by raising the caps, Trump also have fairly broad authority to lower the caps on refugees admitted into the country, a power which he has already utilized by reducing the 2017 target to 50,000 from Obama’s 110,000.
Of course, no matter what powers the Constitution affords the President, rest assured that disaffected liberal lawyers, flush with cash from George Soros and others, stand ready to challenge the every move of the White House for the next 4 years.