Trump Administration To Allow Refugees From All Countries

A little more than a month after the Trump Administration unveiled the third version of its controversial immigration ban, the government is now ready to resume accepting refugees from all countries. Refugee resettlements will resume with new rules that are meant to more strictly vet the backgrounds of potential immigrants.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the new rules include collecting more personal data, such as names of family members and prior employment information, as well as crosschecking social media posts to confirm information on applications to enter the US. Additionally, officials at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services who examine applications will be given improved training on detecting fraud.

Under the new policy, refugee admissions will resume from all countries, but a source familiar with the policy told the Journal that refugees from 11 targeted countries will be subject to additional screening. The 11 countries were not specified, but would almost certainly include Syria, Iran, Chad, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and North Korea.

Under President Trump’s initial immigration Executive Order, refugee admissions were totally suspended for 120 days. The ban went into effect in June after the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality.

Under the old rules, American vetting of refugees was already among the toughest in the world. “The United States’ refugee vetting procedures—which include extensive and comprehensive interviews as well as multiple rounds of security vetting with an array of U.S. and international intelligence and law enforcement agencies—are widely recognized as the most stringent in the world,” Human Rights First, a pro-refugee group said in a statement last month.

The Journal also notes that the Obama Administration also tried to increase vetting of social media posts, but that the program proved difficult because it was so labor intensive. The Trump Administration has not indicated how it will handle the social media vetting.

Although refugees have carried out terror attacks in other countries, only one refugee in the United States has been convicted on terror-related charges.  Fazliddin Kurbanov, an Uzbekistan national admitted to the US in 2009, was convicted in 2013. Abdul Razak Ali Artan, who carried out stabbing attacks at Ohio State University in 2016, was a Somali refugee. The Tsarnaev brothers, who carried out the Boston Marathon bombing, came to the US from Chechnya, but were not classified as refugees. Many other domestic terrorists were second-generation immigrants.

As part of the revisions to immigration policies, the Trump Administration limited the number of refugees that would be allowed into the US to 45,000. In contrast, the Obama Administration had planned to allow 110,000 refugees in 2017. There is no indication that the refugee cap will be changed under the new policy.

Trump Signs Executive Order

Trump Administration Unveils Indefinite Travel Ban For 8 Countries

 

 

President Trump has issued a new Executive Order imposing a stricter travel ban on citizens of eight nations. The order was issued by the president on Sunday and revises the nations listed in the two Executive Orders that implemented the travel policy earlier this year.

The new Executive Order follows a review initiated by President Trump’s Executive Order of March 6, 2017. The review found that eight countries, Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen, had “’inadequate’ identity-management protocols, information-sharing practices, and risk factors” for screening entry into the United States and suspends the entry of most citizens of these countries on an indefinite basis beginning on Oct. 18. Precise guidelines under the new policy vary by country.

The original travel ban was set for 90 days for most citizens and 120 days for refugees. The current policy comes without an expiration date. A senior administration official told the Washington Post that the restrictions were “necessary and conditions-based, not time-based.”

The new list eliminates Sudan from the original travel ban due to its improved cooperation on national security and information sharing. It also adds the nations of Chad, North Korea and Venezuela.

Iraq was also listed in the original travel ban, but was dropped in the March 2017 version. The current Executive Order notes, “The Secretary of Homeland Security also assesses that Iraq did not meet the baseline, but that entry restrictions and limitations under a Presidential proclamation are not warranted,” adding that nationals of Iraq may “be subject to additional scrutiny to determine if they pose risks to the national security or public safety of the United States.”

Unlike Trump’s first travel ban, the new Executive Order contains a number of exceptions. These include legal permanent residents, dual citizens, diplomats, people admitted prior to Oct. 18, and people who have been granted asylum. There is also a provision for waivers to be granted on a case-by-case basis.

Critics of the restrictions on immigration have argued that the policy is an unconstitutional implementation of the “Muslim ban” that Donald Trump proposed during the campaign. The Supreme Court upheld most elements of the prior version of the travel ban in June. The Court was scheduled to hear oral arguments on the previous policy on Oct. 10. At this point, it is uncertain whether the new policy will affect the case currently before the Court.

“The restrictions either previously or now were never, ever, ever based on race, religion or creed,’’ one senior administration official told the Washington Post. “Those governments are simply not compliant with our basic security requirements.”

Alex Nowrasteh at the Cato Institute says that the policy will be expensive and ineffective, noting, “From 1975 through the end of 2015, zero Americans have been killed by foreign-born terrorists on U.S. soil who hail from any of the eight countries on the new executive order.” Nowrasteh adds, “Only nine terrorists from those countries have carried out an attack or actually been convicted of planning an attack on U.S. soil during that time.”

“Due to the high guaranteed cost of Executive Orders like these and the small potential security benefits, the administration should supply an excellent reason for this order along with sufficient evidence to demonstrate their claim,” Nowrasteh says. “It speaks volumes that they have not done so.”

The new Executive Order will undoubtedly face legal challenges, but the previous travel bans have survived judicial scrutiny largely intact. If the Supreme Court keeps its Oct. 10 date to hear the current travel ban case, the new immigration policy could be enacted more swiftly than its predecessors.

What Obama’s Paris Climate Accord Could Teach Donald Trump

President Trump dismantled yet another part of President Obama’s legacy this week, by removing the United States from the Paris climate accord. Obama’s legacy, largely consisting of executive overreach, cut corners, and half fixes, is once again proving easy to erase. 

When the Paris climate agreement was signed at the United Nations in April 2016, the Obama Administration heralded it as “the most ambitious climate change agreement in history.” The accord is often cited as one of the most important acts of his second term. Prominent presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin listed it as a key feature of his legacy. While the agreement was still being discussed, the New York Times went as far as to claim that Obama’s legacy was at stake if the negotiations proved unsuccessful.

If his domestic regulations and a Paris accord withstand efforts to gut them, “climate change will become the heart and soul of his presidency” [Rice University presidential historian Douglas] Brinkley told the New York Times.

Indeed, the Paris climate accord is now gutted and left for dead.

But my purpose is not to discuss climate change, the merits of the Paris agreement, or the fallout of America’s withdrawal.

I am here to lead the funeral procession for Barack Obama’s pen and phone, and to let their demise serve as a warning to Donald Trump.

During his second term, fed up with Congress, Obama decided that negotiating with the Republicans was too difficult. There was little common ground between the White House and legislature, and Obama had an ambitious agenda he wished to implement.

We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need. I’ve got a pen and a phone,” Obama said in early 2014.

That would be a common refrain from Obama for the balance of his presidency. With said pen and with said phone, Obama flexed the power of the administrative state to push his liberal agenda in education, gay rights, immigration, foreign policy, and the environment. Some initiatives were stymied by successful lawsuits, but Obama was largely successful in weaponizing the federal bureaucracy to bypass Congress as much as possible.

One of the most difficult parts of the presidency, particularly during polarized times such as these, is to go about the difficult slog of governing. Developing relationships with congressional leaders, whipping up votes, wading into the weeds on complex policy, making tough decisions to come to a majority consensus: these are the difficult, unseen, and unglamorous parts of governing a nation. The legislative process takes a tremendous amount of deliberation and consensus, as the founders intended.

Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, both former governors, managed to achieve legislative accomplishments by working with a hostile Congress. Tip O’Neill, the Democratic Speaker of the House throughout the 1980s, once called Reagan the most ignorant man to ever inhabit the White House, and “Herbert Hoover with a smile.” Of course, Clinton and former Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich never had anything but disdain for each other.

Yet Reagan and O’Neill still managed to pass legislation on tax reform, national defense, gun rights, voting rights, and immigration. Clinton and Gingrich managed to address welfare reform, gay marriage, and taxes.

Unlike Clinton and Reagan, President Obama was a political amateur. He came to office on a tide of speeches and platitudes, but with no real governing experience. His only signature legislative achievements occurred in the first year of his presidency when he had a filibuster proof majority in the Senate.

When the going got tough, Obama resorted to his pen and phone. This was the easy way out. It paid short term dividends, allowing him to make more speeches as he implemented one vacuous policy after another. His supporters claimed victory in the name of progress, while the other half of the country became hopelessly convinced everyday that they were losing their country and there was nothing Congress could do about it. Their only hope to stop the march of progressive tyranny through the administrative state was to win the White House.

In their desperation, they elected another political amateur, Donald Trump. Like Obama, he has no governing experience. He, too, came to power on a tide of speeches and platitudes.

To the extent that Trump was voted into the presidency to undo Obama’s flimsy legacy, the Paris climate agreement is the latest is a string of achievements. Trump has reversed course on transgender bathrooms, immigration enforcement, and other executive actions. With each new measure, Trump, like his predecessor before him, takes a victory lap in the name of progress for his supporters.

The day is coming, however, when Trump will not be in office. A Democrat will eventually be elected, and he or she will be free to reverse (or re-reverse!) every executive action taken by Trump.

The only way to form a lasting legacy is to engage in the difficult work of lawmaking. To set the country on a conservative trajectory for decades to come, Trump and Congressional Republicans must pass major legislation. Thus far, Trump has proven lackluster in his attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare, the only real legislative achievement on which Obama’s legacy can rely. Other efforts, such as tax reform, are struggling to get off the ground.

Almost all legislation will require a few Democratic senators to overcome a filibuster. That will be tough, but it was difficult for Reagan and Clinton too. Partisanship and polarization are not new.

With every new executive action, Trump is shoveling more dirt into the grave of Obama’s pen and phone legacy. He would be wise to assure his successor can’t do the same.

 

Few Lasting Achievements From Trump’s First 100 Days

As the Trump Administration passes its 100-day mark, the most striking thing is how ineffective the new president has been thus far. In spite of a plethora of Executive Orders that undoubtedly please most on the right, President Trump has put few lasting marks on the country at this early point in his presidency.

Even though President Trump has signed many bills in his tenure as president, most have not been laws that have lasting significance. For conservatives, passing laws is not an end unto itself. Laws should roll back government and make it smaller and less intrusive on the American people. Politifact notes that several of the bills that Trump has signed are business-as-usual type laws that designate memorials and name buildings, for example.

Not all of Trump’s new laws have been trivial, however. About half of the 28 bills signed by Trump so far were passed under the Congressional Review Act. This law allows Congress to review and rescind last-minute Obama-era rules by federal agencies. The law provides for a 60-day window to review bureaucratic rules that begins when Congress is notified that a rule has been finalized. The Daily Signal has a list of Obama-era rules that run the gamut from gun control to environment to education that have been rescinded by President Trump and the new Congress. Nevertheless, the laws merely preserve the status quo and do not break new ground in shrinking government or rolling back Obama’s legislation. Additionally, the window is now closed to rescind other rules from the Obama Administration.

The most notable legislative story of Trump’s 100 days is the failure to advance a bill repealing or reforming Obamacare. For seven years, Republicans have railed against President Obama’s trademark health entitlement yet, under President Trump’s leadership, Republicans in Congress have failed to advance even a watered-down version of bill reforming Obamacare.

President Trump’s answer was to pivot from health care to tax reform, but he is likely to have the same result and for the same reasons. The Trump coattails left Republicans with tiny majorities in both houses of Congress. The Republican Senate majority cannot defeat a Democrat filibuster and the House Republicans are too divided between Tuesday Group moderates and Freedom Caucus conservatives to pass a health reform bill. Tax reform is likely to be no different.

In order to avert a government shutdown, President Trump even had to give in and omit funding for construction of his wall and crackdown on sanctuary cities from the spending bill that will carry the government through the end of the fiscal year in September. Trump said repeatedly that Mexico would pay for the wall before asking for taxpayer funds.

Trump has done better with Executive Orders. The president has issued many orders that will slow the growth of government and streamline government regulations. An early Trump Executive Order reinstated President Reagan’s Mexico City policy that banned federal funds from international groups that promote abortion. President Obama had rescinded the policy in 2009. Other Executive Orders, such as the travel ban, seem poorly conceived from the beginning.

Good or bad, Executive Orders are limited. The president cannot legislate from the Oval Office with an Executive Order in place of Congress. Executive Orders may also last only as long as the president who signed them. An incoming president could sign Executive Orders rescinding Trump’s orders as easily as Trump reversed Obama’s.

On foreign policy, President Trump, whose views in the campaign ranged from promising a plan to destroy ISIS within his first month to neo-isolationism in other regions, launched what is largely considered to be an ineffective attack on a Syrian airbase in response to a chemical weapons attack before turning his attention to North Korea.

For several weeks, Trump suggested that he would make trade concessions to China in exchange for help in dealing with North Korea. As recently as April 30, Trump suggested on CBS News that he was open to dealing with China on trade, saying, “Trade is very important. But massive warfare with millions, potentially millions of people being killed? That, as we would say, trumps trade.”

Today that has changed. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross seemed to walk back weeks of diplomatic overtures in an interview with CBS, saying, “I don’t think he [Trump] meant to indicate at all that he intends to trade away American jobs just for help on North Korea.”

One hundred days into Trump’s presidency, there is also still no detailed plan to defeat ISIS.

To date, the Trump presidency can be described as lurching from one crisis to another. Some of these crises have been self-inflicted, such as the president’s tweets about wiretapping by the Obama Administration. Others, such as North Korean missile tests and Syrian chemical warfare, have been outside the president’s control. Still others, such as the division among congressional Republicans, reflect a lack of leadership from President Trump.

The one unqualified success that President Trump has had is with the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Gorsuch seems to be as solid a conservative jurist as anyone could possibly have picked. Nevertheless, the confirmation came at the cost of the filibuster. This was necessary due to unreasonable Democratic obstructionism, but may haunt Republicans in the future.

To have a lasting and positive impact, President Trump is going to have to develop a cogent and consistent worldview on both domestic and foreign policy. So far, the president has been inconsistent on numerous issues in both realms. He needs to make up his mind as to what his goals are and concentrate on those items.

The president also needs to learn to work with Congress. Donald Trump was elected partly on claims that he is a world-class dealmaker. His deal-making skills are sorely needed in hammering out compromises on Obamacare and tax reform, but so far President Trump seems to have little interest in the details of policymaking. The president should realize that the qualities that made him the Republican nominee and that enabled him to win the election don’t necessarily make him a natural leader and statesman.

None of this means that he will have a failed presidency, however. President Trump has assembled a very qualified and capable team. With a few exceptions, the Trump cabinet can truly be called a “conservative dream team.” President Trump should listen to their advice and consider it carefully.

As someone who was a Never Trump conservative and a third-party voter during the election, I must admit that Trump, with all his foibles, has not been the worst-case scenario that I feared. So far, he has undoubtedly been better than President Hillary (shudder) would have been. Neither has he been a valiant, steely-eyed, conservative leader. The truth is somewhere in the middle.

So far President Trump has been erratic and ineffective, but he has trended toward the right. In some cases, such as backing away from his plans to terminate NAFTA, his flip-flops have even be reassuring. In other cases, such as his saber-rattling against North Korea, his actions are downright scary.

After 100 days, the jury is still out.

Executive Order Aims To Return Local Control To Education

Over the past eight years, we’ve seen Obama’s Department of Education take a tight rein on educational policy, but, in what is certainly an encouraging move, President Donald Trump is set to undo that federal control with the stroke of a pen. The president will soon issue an executive order that takes great strides toward returning control of education to the local level.

The order will direct Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to sift through the Obama era regulations and flag the ones that wrest control away from local jurisdictions within 300 days. This of course will reverse the course set by Obama and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

(For instance, Duncan employed money from one particular program to promote Common Core standards, breaking protocol by essentially attempting to force states to adopt the standards as a national policy.)

I think this is a terrific decision and a massive step in the right direction. It’s a win for federalism and reflects well on Trump and DeVos. Control of educational policy – like so many other government policies – belongs at the closest level possible to the citizens. Good for President Trump in realizing this truth and taking steps to take educational decisions back to the local level.

BREAKING: Judge Blocks Trump Order Blocking Funds for Sanctuary Cities

A U.S. District Court judge based out of San Francisco (naturally) has issued an injunction that will at least temporarily block President Donald Trump’s executive order that denies federal grants to cities that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities in enforcing immigration law:

Judge William Orrick issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday barring federal officials nationwide from carrying out the portion of a Jan. 25 Trump executive order aimed at cutting off grants to local governments that won’t provide assistance to federal authorities in locating and detaining undocumented immigrants.

 

Orrick cited public comments from Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions in concluding that the order appeared intended to sweep more broadly than allowed by federal law. The judge, an Obama appointee, called “not legally plausible” the Justice Department’s arguments that Trump was simply trying to secure compliance with current law.

 

“If there was doubt about the scope of the Order, the President and Attorney General have erased it with their public comments,” Orrick wrote. “The Constitution vests the spending power in Congress, not the President, so the Order cannot constitutionally place new conditions on federal funds.”

The decision came about as part of a lawsuit filed by the local governments in San Francisco and Santa Clara County.  So it appears as if California, with all of its fiscal problems, is determined to keep illegal immigration at levels that will only accelerate their insolvency.  Then again, what else would you expect from the state that wants to spend billions of dollars it doesn’t have on high-speed rail that nobody wants?

Also on display here is a fair amount of judicial arrogance, with Judge Orrick citing the public statements of Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions as justification for his ruling.  We saw much the same thing with Judge Derrick Watson, when he blocked Trump’s suspension of travel from certain Muslim majority countries based on statements the president made during the 2016 campaign, so this is nothing new.  What is a fair point on Orrick’s part, however, is his insistence that spending power is vested only in the Congress, which makes any order blocking federal grants to sanctuary cities beyond the scope of executive powers.  I’m a firm believer that if these cities want to flout federal immigration law, they shouldn’t be allowed to have that cake and eat their federally-funded goodies too–but it also seems to me that, at least in this aspect, Orrick is on pretty firm constitutional ground here.

Which makes it all the more reason for Congress to act, and make federal funds conditional on upholding federal law.

NEW: Trump Signs Energy Independence EO

Rolling back the draconian Obama climate agenda

President Trump signed an Energy Independence Executive Order on Tuesday, largely undoing the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan, which had yet to be implemented after being blocked by the Supreme Court in February 2016 until multiple legal challenges could be decided. In so doing, Trump was delivering on campaign promises that helped sway several coal-producing states his way in the general election.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt foreshadowed today’s EO on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos last Sunday:

“For too long, over the last several years, we have accepted a narrative that if you’re pro-growth, pro-jobs, you’re anti-environment; if you’re pro-environment, you’re anti-jobs or anti-growth. We can be both pro-jobs and pro-environment. And the executive order will address the past administration’s efforts to kill jobs across this country through the Clean Power Plan.”

Before he was appointed to the EPA, Pruitt was attorney general of Oklahoma, one of some two dozen states suing to do away with Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

Tuesday’s EO also ended a coal leasing moratorium that had been in place for a year, strict regulations on methane emissions and fracking, and requirements to incorporate climate impact considerations into federal projects.

Guilty: Federal Judges Stripping Trump’s Power of ‘Fundamental Acts of Sovereignty’

The federal courts have stripped the president of executive power to perform “fundamental acts of sovereignty.” This is a full-blown constitutional crisis that will require the Supreme Court’s action to correct, or our republic is headed for trouble.

Hawaii-based US District Court Judge Derrick Watson issued a 43-page ruling to block President Trump’s revised immigration executive order. While the first restraining order and subsequent decision upholding it by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was terribly flawed, this new TRO follows the same precedent.

That precedent treats Trump’s prior remarks on the campaign trail as evidence of a motive of religious discrimination. Think about it: the courts have attributed personal motives of the president based on campaign rhetoric, and applied that to the executive powers of the president, used to limit those powers. This has never been done before.

If the same standards had been used against former President Obama, many of his personal statements would have exposed his executive orders to claims of discrimination. But it never entered anyone’s mind to apply that kind of judicial overreach to Obama. (Perhaps because Obama is a lawyer? And maybe because Trump is fairly harsh on the legal profession as a whole, there’s an element of payback here?)

At the same time the Hawaii order was written, the Ninth Circuit denied an en banc hearing on the first, Washington State TRO.

Five judges dissented in the decision, which effectively forces the issue to the Supreme Court. Their dissent, calling the ruling a “manifest error,” is worth noting, as Legal Insurrection pointed out.

The Executive Order of January 27, 2017, suspending the entry of certain aliens, was authorized by statute, and presidents have frequently exercised that authority through executive orders and presidential proclamations. Whatever we, as individuals, may feel about the President or the Executive Order,1 the President’s decision was well within the powers of the presidency, and “[t]he wisdom of the policy choices made by [the President] is not a matter for our consideration.” Sale v. Haitian Ctrs. Council, Inc., 509 U.S. 155, 165 (1993).

This is not to say that presidential immigration policy concerning the entry of aliens at the border is immune from judicial review, only that our review is limited by Kleindienst v. Mandel, 408 U.S. 753 (1972)—and the panel held that limitation inapplicable. I dissent from our failure to correct the panel’s manifest error.

In early February, the Los Angeles Times (normally very critical of Trump), cited a Supreme Court case and subsequent Congressional action in support of Trump’s executive power.

The exclusion of aliens is a fundamental act of sovereignty … inherent in the executive power,” the Supreme Court said in 1950. And lest there be doubt, Congress adopted a provision in 1952 saying the president “may by proclamation and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens and any class of aliens as immigrants or non-immigrants” whenever he thinks it “would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.”

If an act is “inherent in the executive power,” but the the ability to exercise that power is subject to the whims and suppositions of federal judges, that effectively puts the power into the judges’ hands. It creates a star chamber of sorts where the president has to go on trial for everything he’s said and past motives in order to pass muster by an unelected panel of masters.

And those masters can hold themselves above review–hence the awful decision by the Ninth Circuit Court to refuse an en banc hearing.

This is not how our republic is supposed to function, and the Supreme Court is charged with responsibility to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law, not judges drunk with their own power. If SCOTUS won’t act, then it falls to Congress to clip the wings (or abolish) the renegade judges of their jurisdiction.