Sweeping immigration crackdown looks to be top of Trump’s agenda
Donald Trump won the presidency campaigning on a promise of a far-reaching immigration crackdown, and early indications are that he intends to execute it.
The immigration section of Trump’s presidential transition website reaffirms his plans to “cancel unconstitutional executive orders” – which his advisers have said includes President Barack Obama’s 2012 programme that has protected from deportation 750,000 young people brought to the US illegally.
Once he takes office in January, Trump can end that programme without any approval from Congress. He can also end Obama’s 2014 executive action, currently blocked by the courts, to extend that deportation reprieve to some 4 million undocumented immigrants who haven’t committed crimes.
The website re-emphasized other Trump proposals for which he may need congressional approval, including plans to build a wall on the US-Mexico border, suspend new visas from certain high-risk countries, end funding for sanctuary cities and change legal immigration policies to better serve US workers.
The president-elect listed immigration as one of his top three priorities on Thursday.
“We’re looking very strongly at immigration,” he told reporters in the Capitol after meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “We’re going to look at the borders, very importantly, we’re looking very strongly at health care and we’re looking at jobs — big league jobs.”
Trump tapped Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, an anti-immigration firebrand who helped draft controversial restrictionist laws in Arizona and Alabama, to his transition team.
“I’m a member of the immigration policy transition team and there’s going to be a lot to do there in part because Mr. Trump and Mr. Obama are diametric opposites when it comes to immigration policy,” Kobach told Kansas television station KWCH.
Kobach promised that there will be “a lot of changes.”
In addition, Trump has been relying on Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, another immigration restrictionist, for advice on immigration policy.
Immigration was a flashpoint in the 2016 race, with Trump ousting Republican rivals like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio by campaigning on a far more restrictive platform than they initially supported. Democrat Hillary Clinton wanted to expand Obama’s immigration relief plans and grant a path to citizenship for people in the US illegally.
“He’ll spend a lot of time controlling the border. He may not spend very much time trying to get Mexico to pay for it. But it was a great campaign device,” Newt Gingrich, a Trump surrogate and former House speaker, told reporters.
A wall on the Southern border is estimated to cost possibly US$25 billion. Spokesmen for McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin didn’t immediately respond when asked if they support funding for it.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is advising Trump, said on Thursday on CNN that “the wall is going to take a while”, but suggested Trump could “do it by executive order by just re-programming money within the immigration service”. Trump’s immigration policies are sure to face immense blowback from the Hispanic community. They won’t get support from congressional Democrats, said Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.
“I haven’t seen anybody lay out how you build a wall,” he said. “I don’t think there’ll be common ground on that topic.”