July 23, 2017
Since his inauguration, President Donald Trump has been plagued by an inability to replace holdovers from President Barack Obama’s administration with his own hand-picked and presumably loyal staffers. Democratic appointees, especially those who work in sensitive national security matters, have routinely leaked to the anti-Trump media information designed to hamper the President Trump. Civil service bureaucrats, after all, were near unanimous in their support of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
No where in the federal government is getting rid of Obama holdovers more important than in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Under Obama, enforcement was only occasionally carried out — more a token gesture than a meaningful statement. Not only did Obama wink at enforcement, he rewarded deferred action minors with quasi-amnesty and with work authorization permits. And before Obama, President George W. Bush only half-heartedly pursued enforcement.
But President Trump campaigned on and won in large part because of his promise to restore meaning to immigration laws — a welcome and refreshing message to voters. Initially, President Trump said his primary goal was to remove criminals, but a recently leaked internal ICE and Enforcement Removal Operations (ERO) memo from February revealed that immigration officers can begin removal proceedings against any illegal immigrant they may encounter in the course of their daily routine.
“Effective immediately, ERO officers will take enforcement action against all removable aliens encountered in the course of their duties,” reads the memo. What this means, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions succinctly stated it, is that anyone illegally present in the United States is subject to deportation. That includes, Sessions added, foreign nationals who come and stay here a few years, and then assume that because of the length of their presence that they’re not deportable. Last month, Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan testified to the House Appropriations Committee that, as Sessions indicated, he fully intended to enforce immigration law to the letter, and that “no population” among unlawfully present aliens should feel protected from removal.
Essentially the new ICE memo, which sent immigration advocates into a frenzy, voids former ICE Director John Morton’s infamous non-enforcement directive, which allegedly prioritized terrorists or other aliens that might be engaged in espionage or threats to the homeland. But Morton’s memo also gave a free pass to other categories of aliens, including some that were terrorists, but not officially categorized as such.
No question that the Trump Administration has been more efficient about removing illegal immigrants than its predecessors, and that most ICE officials and agents are on board with the new guidelines. And in another big step forward, in May, Obama holdovers, the director and deputy director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review, resigned; Sessions’ named James McHenry as the acting director.
Still, in defiant sanctuary cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, except for small, scattered spurts of ICE activity, illegal immigrants go about their business as usual. Specifically missing from ICE targets is workplace enforcement, which offers two-for-the-price-of-one opportunity: one enforcement action can net illegal immigrant workers and illegal immigrant employers. Working without legal authorization and hiring illegal immigrants are crimes.
ICE has accomplished much, but more still needs doing. Encouragingly, though, signs are pointing up that President Trump will prevail on alien removal.